Federal, state and Tribal health partners travel to rural communities to learn about sanitation concerns and preparations for the fishing season
May 17, 2020
The group included Dr. Alexander Eastman, the senior medical officer at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Jeff Birks, his chief of staff. Alaska Department of Health and Social Services representatives included Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer, and Heidi Hedberg, director of Public Health. Also traveling with the group was Ben Stevens, the governor’s chief of staff, and Dr. Robert Onders, medical director of Community and Health Systems Improvement with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC).
Division of Public Health Director Heidi Hedberg said of the trip they were looking forward to showing our federal partners the ongoing planning efforts with our coastal communities and continuing to work together with our local, state, federal and Tribal partners to mitigate any identified gaps to prepare for a safe fishing season.
Hedberg said they discussed rural sanitation and sewage treatment concerns. "It is going to take all of us working together to come up with solutions. We communicate regularly with these communities but have not yet visited in person. We felt this trip was important so our federal partners could see firsthand the unique challenges these communities are facing and hear directly from them about their concerns,” saud Hedberg,
The agenda for the trip was developed jointly by DHSS and ANTHC. Part of the group traveled to Nome last Tuesday to talk with the Norton Sound Health Corporation about sanitation issues and to visit Stebbins. Last Wednesday the entire group visited Kodiak and Cordova to visit with community and Tribal leaders, local health care providers and representatives from the fishing industry. On Thursday, the entire group visited with similar representatives in Dillingham, Egegik, King Salmon and Naknek.
Prior to traveling, all travelers were tested for COVID-19; all tests were negative. Everyone traveling wore a mask, practiced social distancing and took other preventive measures to prevent COVID-19.
Edited By Mary Kauffman, SitNews
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