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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska
December 23, 2020

First COVID-19 Vaccines Being Administered in Ketchikan

First COVID-19 Vaccines Being Administered in Ketchikan
Family medicine physician Charlie Jose, MD, and emergency room nurse Amanda Schlecht, RN, were the first two to receive the vaccine at PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center on Tuesday. First vaccinations were done on Friday.
Photo Courtesy PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center
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Ketchikan: First COVID-19 Vaccines Being Administered in Ketchikan - PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center began administering doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to frontline employees and medical staff Tuesday.

Family medicine physician Charlie Jose, MD, and emergency room nurse Amanda Schlecht, RN, were the first two to receive the vaccine. Dr. Jose and Amanda Schlecht have been on the frontlines of patient care throughout the pandemic. Both were eager to receive the vaccine and look forward to the greater community getting immunized when supplies increase.

PeaceHealth will continue to vaccinate frontline staff over the coming weeks and will continue to work with the Emergency Operations Center and local public health to support community distribution of vaccine once it becomes broadly available.

Chief Medical Officer, Peter Rice, MD, said, “Today marks a new beginning; one of hope…every day for the past 10 months, our caregivers have provided exceptional, compassionate care under difficult circumstances of rapid change and uncertainty.”

Dr. Rice urges the community to remember the battle with the pandemic continues until herd immunity is achieved. In his words, “We cannot afford to let our guard down. We must continue to wear masks, we must maintain social distance, and we must practice good hand hygiene.”

Ketchikan’s first vaccinations were administered December 18, 2020 to pharmacists at Island Pharmacy and to workers and residents at assisted living centers after a shipment arrived earlier Friday. - More...
Wednesday PM - December 23, 2020

Alaska: Governor to reorganize the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services - Governor Mike Dunleavy on Tuesday directed the Alaska Department of Law to draft an executive order reorganizing the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services into two distinct executive branch departments: the Alaska Department of Health and the Alaska Department of Family and Community Services. This reorganization will streamline and improve the delivery of critical programs and services while creating more flexibility and responsiveness in both departments resulting in improved outcomes.

“In order to obtain a keen focus on each crucial division and achieve the outcomes of each program that Alaskans expect and deserve, I will exercise my constitutional authority and reorganize the department to meet the needs of Alaskans into the 21st century,” said Governor Dunleavy. “The bottom line is Alaskans will be the ultimate beneficiaries of this reorganization, particularly children, the elderly and other vulnerable populations.”

Senate President Cathy Giessel (R-Anchorage), an Advanced Nurse Practitioner, applauded Governor Mike Dunleavy’s decision to divide the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services into two departments: the Alaska Department of Health and the Alaska Department of Family and Community Services:

“I applaud Governor Dunleavy for his decisive action,” said Sen. Cathy Giessel. “I have long felt that Health and Social Services is simply too large to be managed as a single department and believe this move will mean a more nimble, efficient state government, responsive to the needs of all Alaskans.” 

Article III, Section 23 of the Alaska Constitution grants the governor the power to make organizational changes to the executive branch through the use of an executive order (EO). The EO, establishing two executive branch departments, will be submitted during the regular session of the 32nd Alaska Legislature in January. Its members have 60 days to disapprove it or it becomes law. The EO will be effective July 1, 2021. - More...
Wednesday AM - December 23, 2020

Alaska: Initial allocations of Moderna vaccine arrive in Alaska; Alaska’s work to distribute, allocate and administer vaccine continues - The second COVID-19 vaccine authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) arrived in Alaska on Monday. Distribution and administration of this vaccine, made by Moderna, will occur this week in Alaska alongside the continued roll-out of the Pfizer vaccine which started last Monday. 

As of Sunday, 5,674 doses of Pfizer vaccine have been administered in Alaska and reported to Alaska’s VacTraAK immunization information system.

The Moderna vaccine received emergency use authorization from the FDA on Friday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended Saturday that Americans aged 18 and older receive the Moderna vaccine under emergency use. CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield signed the ACIP recommendation, which began distribution of the Moderna vaccine on Sunday. 

“We want to offer this vaccine to Alaskans as quickly as possible,” said Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink. “This is a major step in that direction. We’re extremely grateful for the hard work that has gone into developing this vaccine and ensuring its safety. Our role is to continue to distribute vaccine according to federal and state allocation plans to Alaskans who want it.”

According to current federal government estimates, Alaska will initially receive 26,800 doses of Moderna vaccine in addition to the 35,100 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which began to be distributed and administered last week. These numbers include the Indian Health Service allocations for Alaska, but do not include vaccine allocated to Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense.

The initial state allocations from Pfizer and Moderna include enough doses for 61,900 people. Both vaccines require a second dose; the second doses are being held in reserve by the federal government to ensure they will be available when needed. The follow-up dose of the Pfizer vaccine should be taken three weeks after the first dose while the separation between doses is four weeks for the Moderna vaccine. - More...
Wednesday AM - December 23, 2020

Ketchikan: Illness Related to COVID-19 Takes Ketchikan Loved One's Life Posted and Edited By MARY KAUFFMAN - The Ketchikan Emergency Operations Center (EOC) announced they were informed by the family of resident Julie Wasuli that she passed away due to illness related to COVID-19. Ms. Wasuli was transferred from Ketchikan’s COVID unit to a hospital in Bellingham on November 16th and passed on December 11, 2020.

jpg Julie Wasuli

Julie Wasuli
Go Fund Me: Final Journey Home: Julie Wasuli Memorial Fund

“This loss is very great for our community. We have lost a neighbor, a friend, a sister, a mother. Our community is very saddened, and we appreciate the prayers of support,” said City of Saxman Mayor Seludo. 

Ketchikan Borough Mayor Dial has offered his condolences by saying, “It was with great sadness that I learned of the passing of Julie Wasuli. My hope and daily prayers have always been that we as a community could get through this pandemic without a single citizen dying. My heart goes out to the family and I ask that we pray for their strength, comfort and God’s protection on our island.” 

City of Ketchikan Mayor Sivertsen also expressed his sympathy, “I am so sorry to hear the news of this loss. My heart goes out to the family and friends and the entire community. Please know that you are in our thoughts and prayers.” - More...
Wednesday AM - December 23, 2020

Ketchikan: 360 Ketchikan School Superintendent Evaluation - The Ketchikan Gateway Borough School Board is conducting a 360 evaluation of Superintendent Beth Lougee. Members of the community including District staff, parents and stakeholders are invited to complete and submit a confidential evaluation form.

The form is available and can be submitted electronically through a link on the District website at A downloadable, printable version will be available on the website as well. - More...
Wednesday AM - December 23, 2020


Fish Factor: Pacific Cod Appears to Rebound; More fishing updates for 2021; More trade troubles; & Fish give-backs By LAINE WELCH - Alaska coastal communities will get a bit of an economic boost in 2021 from increased catches of Pacific cod. 

The stock, which crashed after a multi-year heat wave starting in 2014 wiped out several year classes, appears to be rebounding throughout the Gulf of Alaska.

No cod fishery occurred at all this year in federally managed waters (from three to 200 miles out) where the bulk of the harvest is taken, and a catch of under six million pounds was allowed in state managed waters (out to three miles). 

For 2021, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council set the federal cod catch at just over 38 million pounds and nearly 11.7 million pounds for the state. While it’s a bump up, managers caution that the stock remains very low.

“The state waters GHLs (guideline harvest levels) have gone up about two and half times since last year. While it’s good, we are still at a very low level of abundance, so that should be kept in mind,” said Nat Nichols, area groundfish manager for the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game at Kodiak.

“The model for at least the last year or two have predicted that 2020 would be the low point in abundance and then, based on assumptions of average natural mortality and average recruitment, the stock would begin rebounding beginning in 2021. The model and other indices are still seeing rebounds in cod numbers, not large dramatic rebounds, but steady incremental growth, which is good,” he added.

One reason cod numbers have ticked up, Nichols said, is because of the fishery reductions this year.

“Just by the function of leaving many, many thousands of tons of cod in the water you get more cod in the assessment,” he said.

The cod fishery in state waters is carved up based on the federal harvest guidelines for five regions: Kodiak, Cook Inlet, Chignik, Prince William Sound and the South Alaska Peninsula.

That’s then broken up into shares for different fishing gears.

“For the most part, it’s pot and jig gear with pot gear generally taking more. The one exception is Prince William Sound where they have a longline fishery,” Nichols said, adding that each fishery has opening dates ranging from January 1 into March.

Due to the Covid pandemic, fishery managers are making efforts to streamline the process of registering for the cod fishery. Nichols encourages fishermen to contact the Kodiak ADF&G office with any questions. (907-486-1840) - More...
Wednesday AM - December 23, 2020

Research offers glimpse into life of 57,000-year-old wolf pup

Research offers glimpse into life of 57,000-year-old wolf pup
The mummified remains of Zhùr, an ancient mummified wolf pup found in the Yukon, Canada.
Photo by Grant Zazula


Alaska - Canada: Research offers glimpse into life of 57,000-year-old wolf pup By JEFF RICHARDSON - Thousands of years after a wolf pup suddenly perished in northern Canada, researchers have constructed a fascinating picture of its brief life, including details about its age, diet and ancestry.

The mummified female pup was discovered in 2016, when a Yukon miner found the remarkably well-preserved specimen while excavating in the Klondike gold fields. The animal, which probably died when its den collapsed about 57,000 years ago, was preserved by the surrounding permafrost. Those conditions helped make it the oldest and most complete ancient wolf ever discovered.

Grant Zazula, a paleontologist with the Yukon Government, pulled together a team of researchers, led by Julie Meachen of Des Moines University, to study the young wolf through the analysis of its skeletal X-rays, hair samples and tooth enamel. Their findings were detailed in the Dec. 21 issue of the journal Current Biology.

“For scientists, this is a different kind of gold,” said Matthew Wooller, the director of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Alaska Stable Isotope Facility and a contributor to the paper.

The team named the pup Zhùr, which means “wolf” in the local Indigenous Hän language. Her bone structure indicates that she died at 6-7 weeks old, an age when modern gray wolves in the region have typically just weaned from their mother.

By studying stable isotopes from hair and tooth samples at the Alaska Stable Isotope Facility, researchers were able to determine that the pup’s mother had a diet heavy in aquatic resources. That probably meant seasonal consumption of fish from the Klondike River, which still has a modern-day spawning population of Chinook salmon. Some wolves in Interior Alaska can get much of their summer diet from fish, making it a plausible scenario for one of their ice age relatives.

Through DNA testing of both Zhùr and 29 other ancient and present-day wolves, researchers were also able to connect her genetics to ancient Beringian and Russian gray wolves, as well as modern gray wolves. That includes individuals from both Eurasia and North America, highlighting the connections maintained between those continents as animals moved across the Bering Land Bridge.

Meachen, an associate professor of anatomy at Des Moines University, said the various tests produced a consistent picture of how Zhùr and other wolves lived in the region during the Pleistocene era.

“They told the same story, and that doesn’t always happen in paleo work,” Meachen said. “This was a case where ancient DNA and isotope techniques were all telling the same story.” - More...
Wednesday AM - December 23, 2020

When Reindeer Moved the Mail in Alaska

When Reindeer Moved the Mail in Alaska
Reindeer with sleds of mail in Alaska, undated.
USPS collection.



Alaska: When Reindeer Moved the Mail in Alaska By JENNY LYNCH - Many of us learned as children that reindeer help Santa Claus deliver toys to children worldwide on the night before Christmas. But few of us may know that reindeer also once helped deliver U.S. Mail in Alaska. From 1899 to the early 1910s, reindeer helped transport mail to more than a dozen Post Office locations in northwestern Alaska, including several located north of the Arctic Circle.

Why reindeer?

Unlike caribou, which were native to Alaska, semi-domesticated reindeer were imported to Alaska in the 1890s. Sheldon Jackson, a Presbyterian missionary and the General Agent of Education for Alaska from 1885 to 1908, believed reindeer would be useful for transportation in winter. Dogsleds, the traditional form of wintertime transportation, could not carry as much weight as sleds pulled by reindeer. Dogs also needed food to be prepared in advance and carried or cached along the route, whereas reindeer could feed themselves by foraging for lichen.

In his 1894 report to the U.S. Department of the Interior titled “Introduction of Domestic Reindeer into Alaska,” Jackson included a map showing “proposed reindeer mail routes” crisscrossing Alaska Territory. Jackson arranged for reindeer to be imported to Alaska from both Siberia and northern Scandinavia, accompanied by reindeer herders to teach the native Alaskans how to handle, care for and train the deer. Although Jackson’s vision of reindeer routes crisscrossing the territory never materialized, in the early years reindeer were used on several mail routes in northwest Alaska, from St. Michael, south of the Seward Peninsula, to the Barrow Post Office, north of the Arctic Circle.

The discovery of gold in Nome in 1898 led to the establishment of new Post Office locations to serve the thousands of fortune-seekers who came to northwestern Alaska. Most of the offices were located along the coast or inland waterways. In summer, the offices could be reached by boat, but during the long, frozen winters — the period of “closed navigation” — travel was extremely difficult. Traveling between Post Office locations was so time-consuming and dangerous that for decades some offices in Alaska received mail only two or three times each winter.

Reindeer routes

The first known use of reindeer to move the U.S. Mail was on Route 78110, St. Michael to Kotzebue, consisting of three 1,240-mile, 60-day round-trips beginning Dec. 1, 1899.

Shortly thereafter, reindeer were used to carry mail on the following routes:

  • Eaton to Nome, a 480-mile roundtrip, beginning in March 1900
  • Michael, Eaton and Nulato, a 400-mile roundtrip, in the spring of 1900
  • Nome to Candle, a 520-mile roundtrip, in the winter of 1901-1902

The reindeer teams covered the distance from Nome to Candle in only eight days, roughly half the time required by dog teams. - More...
Wednesday AM - December 23, 2020


jpg Ben Edwards

FINANCIAL FOCUS: Investment Lessons from 2020 Provided By Ben Edwards, AAMS® - As the year draws to a close, it’s fair to say that we’ve all learned something about the social, political, physical and environmental forces that have affected everyone. And, in some ways, our lives will be changed, perhaps permanently. But as an investor, what lessons can you learn from 2020?

Here are some to consider:

• The markets look ahead. Here’s something many investors discovered in 2020: Investment prices don’t always move in the same direction as the overall economy. This might not have seemed apparent right after the COVID-19 pandemic struck in mid-February, as the overall economy and the stock market took big hits. But just about five weeks later, the markets began a rally that lasted several months. During this time, the economy also recovered somewhat, but still remains on weak footing. - More...
Wednesday AM - December 23, 2020

DAVE KIFFER: Ho, Ho, 2020 Ho. - This is a different holiday season.

Masks, social distancing. People insisting that everything is normal and then having to get a footlong Q-tip shoved up their nose.

Didn't see this coming last holiday season, for sure.

The other day, I was trying to think what was on my mind 12 months ago and it was hard to erase The Hallmark Channel's "A Covidian Christmas" from my thoughts.

I'm sure I wasn't pondering having to stay six feet from everyone else and washing my hands obsessively with sanitizer.

If I had, I would have converted my apple shares into toilet paper and paper towel futures.

Didn't know I had apple "shares" 'did you? 

Well, many, many, many years ago, I "invested" in Ketchikan's first "apple" orchard out the road. One of my school chums insisted that (really!) Ketchikan is a good apple growing climate and that we'd make a killing once his trees got up and blooming. Well, they didn't. And we didn't. - More...
Wednesday AM - December 23, 2020

jpg Political Cartoon: My favorite gift

Political Cartoon: My favorite gift
By John Darkow, Columbia Missourian
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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Ketchikan Ferry Terminal Closure By Bob Trotter - Alaskans don’t treat Alaskans this way. Who is responsible for these decisions? What kind of sense does this make? Before you say Covid, hear me out.

They close the 72 seat Ketchikan ferry terminal to the public and make a passenger for the ferry wait 6 hours outside in the 37 degree damp Ketchikan weather.

That’s like telling airline passengers who have a 6 hour layover at Ted Stevens airport to wait outside until their connecting flight is ready.

The airlines aren’t doing that, the AMHS is!

This is exactly what happened to me on December 9th in Ketchikan. I had just arrived on an 8 am flight after working a hitch on the “slope” and was on my way home to Klawock. I picked up my prepaid walk on ferry ticket at the terminal door, (IFA leases space from AMHS) and was told, you can’t wait inside while feeling that rush of warm air coming from inside and seeing past the ticket agent those 72 empty seats in the large passenger terminal waiting area.

Thank God I was able to stay inside the State run airline passenger terminals in Prudhoe Bay and Anchorage on my way down to Ketchikan. They didn’t make anyone wait outside between flights. Seemed pretty organized with everyone social distancing and wearing masks.

Not so for our ferry system. John Falvey, General Manager for the Alaska Marine Highway System told me that all state buildings are closed to the public due to Covid. He is just doing what the State requires. That was his response to me back in September when I brought this up with him. I travel often working the Slope and villages and was concerned that as late fall and winter come on, it was going to be extremely difficult with no warm shelter while waiting for the ferry. If you’re traveling with bulky luggage you can’t just drag it around inside some warm business to loiter while waiting for the ferry. - More...
Tuesday PM - December 15, 2020

START THE CIVIL WAR WITHOUT ME, PLEASE By David G Hanger - Did you hear this Texas idiot, the mayor and the sheriff or whatever of Sundown, Texas, that “civil war is still an option?” OK, redneck, who are you planning on shooting first? And why? As per usual dumb is not better; it is just dumb.

I realize that it is a great travesty to all Trumpistas that your Dear Leader was defeated in an election that really was not that close, and was not in fact fraudulent as has been confirmed and re-confirmed by many of your own redneck buddies, who you then immediately refuted and cast out. All this for a lying, thieving , malignant narcissist whose primary focus is now whether or not and how to pardon himself and family for multiple crimes, a fact indeed cast in stone the instant he initiates the pardon process; for only criminals need pardons.

For this guy you want to murder your neighbors. A label like Democrat or liberal becomes your target on their backs?

Make note, educators, you are fundamental failures at educating. Get Civics back in the curriculum as a requirement and do it now!!! Your product does not want to believe in democracy, in elections that they might lose. They want their way in all things, and come foaming froths of spew onto their locked and loaded AR15s ragingly into the public forum. Bully for you, buck. - More...
Tuesday PM - December 15, 2020

Masks By Yolanda Sainz - In this day and age of Covid-19, most places have a mask mandate. The CDC recommends all people 2 years of age and older wear a mask in  public settings and when around people who don't live in their household. However, this is not the case at the Ketchikan International airport.  - More...
Wednesday AM - December 09, 2020

Governor Dunleavy Makes Alaska a Hostile Place By Vince Beltrami - What would you say if your daughter, sister, or best friend confided she had received inappropriate text messages from a supervisor—comments on her appearance, invitations for late night drinks at his home, questions about whether her children slept in her bed? What if she received 558 such messages and they were accompanied by not just heart emojis but unwanted physical touch? What if she said she had repeatedly tried to brush off these advances (tactfully, because she couldn’t afford to lose her job) but the harassment continued? For months.- More...
Wednesday AM - December 09, 2020

Electoral College By Joe Bialek - The debate has started again as to whether the US Constitution should be amended in order to change the presidential election process.  Some promote eliminating the Electoral College in favor of a direct popular vote for president while others believe the Electoral College should remain unchanged.  Just as compromise solved the initial problems of the framers so it is that compromise can solve this problem.- More...
Wednesday AM - December 09, 2020

Trump Is Sabotaging Our Country By Donald Moskowitz - Vindictive Trump attacked our country for not reelecting him. Trump lost his cases in the courts, and then the corrupt President tried to circumvent the will of the people by coercing Republican law makers in swing states to overturn the election and appoint pro-Trump electors to the Electoral College. He has placed his self interest above the country's interests, and he is sabotaging Biden's incoming administration. Trump is trying to turn the civilian leadership in the Pentagon into a politicized organization by infiltrating highly political unqualified personnel, including former campaign staff, and this weakens our military posture. - More...
Wednesday AM - December 09, 2020

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