290 people receive flu shots at free clinic
October 22, 2020
This year, for the first time, Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) is offering free flu shots to Chilkat Valley residents.
"I get one every year, and I think this year it's especially important to have one given the risk of COVID-19," Haines Senior Village resident Susan Tandy said. Unlike the majority of residents waiting in the line of vehicles to receive a shot at the clinic on Wednesday, Tandy was on foot.
Tandy said she thinks it's important to get a flu shot this year for two reasons.
"They say that if you get influenza and COVID-19 at the same time, that could be bad, plus our healthcare system is likely going to be overwhelmed with COVID-19 numbers this winter. I think it's important that we do everything we can to protect ourselves and the people around us so that we don't overwhelm the healthcare system," she said.
Haines clinic administrator Stephanie Pattison said the decision to offer free shots for the first time was prompted by the pandemic. "Because of the current COVID-19 pandemic, it is very important that SEARHC does its part in reducing the spread of influenza and COVID-19," she said.
SEARHC offered free flu shots in Haines on Oct. 21, 9 a.m. to 1p.m. 290 people received shots in those four hours. Residents reported the line for shots remained long, extending down the block, past the Haines Sheldon Museum.
SEARHC will also offer free flu shots in Klukwan on Oct. 27, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and at Haines School (for students and parents) on Oct. 28, 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.
Pattison said SEARHC plans to offer another round of free flu shot clinics in November. A time for these has yet to be announced.
While important every year, getting a flu shot is particularly critical this year because of the pandemic, Pattison said.
"While it's not possible to say with certainty what will happen in the fall and winter, (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) believes it's likely that flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both be spreading," Pattison said, adding that flu shots not only help protect individuals but also help protect the entire community.
"Because there is no COVID-19 vaccine to date, reducing the number of hospital admissions due to influenza (helps) free up beds if COVID-19 cases fill beds to maximum capacity," she said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all people 6 months and older get an annual flu vaccine.
In other health-related news, the state recently made changes to its requirement for travelers entering Alaska.
Travelers are still required to test on or prior to arrival in the state, or quarantine for 14 days, but they are no longer required to take a second test. Instead, they are required to social distance for five days, the median incubation period for the disease.
According to the state's travel website, "Strict social distancing allows travelers to visit outdoor public places, but asks that travelers remain six feet away from anyone not in your immediate household, wear a face covering and not enter restaurants, bars, gyms, community centers, sporting facilities, office buildings, and school or daycare facilities." Those social distancing should also avoid group activities and gatherings.
Residents are eligible for free tests when they reenter Alaska. Visitors are encouraged to test within 72 hours of travel, or can test upon arrival for $250.
Residents leaving and returning to Alaska within a 72-hour window do not need to test or quarantine upon return.
The Haines Borough currently has in place a resolution encouraging people entering the community from other parts of the state to follow the same testing and quarantine protocols required for out-of-state travelers. With the recent change to the state's requirements, this means travelers entering Haines are now encouraged to test once, before or upon arrival in Haines, and practice social distancing for five days. Travelers who do not wish to do this are encouraged to quarantine for 14 days.
SEARHC continues to offer free weekend testing Saturdays between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. or Sundays between noon and 2 p.m. The borough is offering free tests during the week for in-state travelers entering Haines. Travelers can request testing vouchers by emailing email@example.com.
As of Wednesday morning, the Haines Borough had no active COVID-19 cases. The two new cases reported last week have recovered, according to the state's Division of Public Health.