Wrangell discusses staff testing, CARES funding and reopening

    A view of Wrangell, Alaska.

    Wrangell, Alaska (KINY) - Testing was the focus of the latest Wrangell Unified Command meeting on Wednesday, May 20.

    During the weekly video conference, first responder and hospital leadership talked COVID-19 testing for their respective staff, while the City and Borough of Wrangell Manager provided updates on small cruise ship sailings and the Reopen Wrangell Taskforce. Emergency Medical Services Captain Dorianne Sprehe recapped what she defined as a busy week for the department due to an influx of calls. 

    Planning has begun for an EMS response to larger congregate gatherings as the state continues to open-up, as Sprehe commented that "residents will congregate, whether it's sanctioned or not." 

    With alcohol and drug overdoses up more than 20 percent within the state, and congregate activities in areas across the U.S. proven to be a breeding ground for COVID-19 transmission, local EMS will work to be prepared for the increased risks.  

    The Captain also thanked SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium Vice President and Wrangell Medical Center Hospital Administrator Leatha Merculieff for providing applications for EMS staff to receive COVID-19 testing. 

    As attorneys finalized MOU's between the organizations, testing for first responders was anticipated to receive the green light by Friday, May 22. WMC was also working with CBW to coordinate tests for all staff at the Wrangell Police Department. 

    Merculieff also provided an update on staff testing, with Wrangell SEARHC staff undergoing a second round of swabbing on Wednesday, May 20."It's been decided that staff will undergo COVID-19 testing every two weeks," said Merculieff.  "This will ensure the virus has not made it into our facilities.  Through ruling out positive staff cases, requiring health screenings, introducing universal masking, and enforcing rigorous cleaning practices, WMC and the AICS Clinic will continue to be safe environments for our patients to visit."

    COVID-19 tests remain available to all residents who exhibit symptoms of respiratory disease, regardless of travel or exposure history.  Call the Clinic at 907-874-4700 to schedule a testing appointment.

    At City Hall, CBW Manager Lisa Von Bargen continues to work with statewide officials obtaining guidance on allowable spending of CARES Act funding. 

    With $3.85 million earmarked for the community, there are still uncertainties surrounding permitted spending. Current guidance limits the use of funding to COVID-19 response and mitigation, while discussions are taking place at the federal level for potential use to replace revenue lost due to COVID-19.

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