Petersburg Medical Center & COVID-19:
Frequently Asked Questions
COVID testing at PMC:
- The providers at PMC, the laboratory staff and pathologist recognize the importance of reliable laboratory test results and the impact of a positive test not only on a patient but for all of their contacts.
- All positive tests resulted by methods used at PMC Laboratory are confirmed by an additional and more sensitive method at the State of Alaska Public Health Laboratory using high volume PCR testing. The methods in use at the Alaska State Public Health Laboratory are highly specific and sensitive, with a greater level of detection for the viral particles. Because of this sensitivity and specificity the possibility of a false positive is virtually non-existent. Other methods, such as antigen testing or antibody testing are not as reliable due to a less specific and less sensitivity than the PCR test. These are not performed at PMC at this time.
- Uncertainty in the presentation of this virus is the danger of COVID-19. Viral shedding may vary with individuals and may impact how and when it is transmissible and detectable. COVID-19 has many unknowns but we do know COVID testing is important to track and isolate cases. Family members can each have a different presentation, from no symptoms, all the way to those that require hospitalization. The most dangerous time of infection may be when no symptoms are present. This creates a potential for spreading the virus unknowingly.
- We have a very low number of cases in our community because all of us are working to break the chain of infection. So, continue to wash your hands, keep a distance from others not in your personal bubble and mask to break the chain of infection to others.
Testing terms as they relate to COVID-19:
Sensitivity: How many viral particles need to be present to trigger a positive test?
Specificity: Is the test able to differentiate between different types of viruses? Or will another virus cause a positive result?
COVID antibody test: A person’s immune system manufactures proteins called antibodies that may or may not be specific to a protein, like a virus or bacteria or food. COVID antibody testing is not specific to Covid-19, therefore is unreliable unless a given population or community has had a high rate of infection. Even for someone with past exposure, the duration of protection from these antibodies is not known.
Antigen test: A test that looks for a protein from the virus coat, does not have high specificity therefore can be positive for the wrong reason
PCR Test: A test that looks for sections of the viral RNA, makes many copies of those sections. The test is designed to only look at the specific RNA sequence that is unique to COVID-19.
Symptoms and testing
Who can be tested for COVID-19?
Testing is offered to those in/with:
• Critical Infrastructure worker (1)
• Fisheries worker
• Recent travel out of state (2)
• Known exposure to a confirmed positive (1)
• Anyone with any COVID-like symptom, or sudden onset of an unexplained symptom (1)
• Anyone with a provider referral or for pre-procedure screening (1)
(1) call the Hotline to schedule
(2) go the Petersburg Airport during open testing hours (see below)
How much is the test?
There will be NO out of pocket costs for testing.
In some situations, commercial insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid may be billed for testing.
People without insurance will not be charged for testing.
What are the symptoms I should look for?
Difficulty breathing, cough, fever, runny nose, headache, sore throat, body aches, diarrhea, rash, loss of appetite, loss of sense of smell or taste, or sudden onset of any unexplained symptom. You can check your symptoms here: https://c19check.com/start
I think I might have COVID-19 Symptoms.
Medical emergencies should still use the hospital’s emergency department, dial 911 if you need medical transport to the hospital. Please let the EMT’s know you are concerned about COVID.
If you have any one of the following: cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing, chills, diminished sense of taste or smell, diarrhea, fatigue, fever, headache, rash, muscle/joint aches, nausea, runny nose, sore throat, or sputum production, please call the COVID Hotline at 907-772-5788 before you come to the hospital or clinic. A nurse will ask you a few questions to determine the best “next steps” for you.
Where do I go for testing?
People with symptoms must call the COVID Hotline at 907-772-5788. A nurse will review your symptoms with you to determine if you need to be seen right away through the emergency department or scheduling your test is a safe alternative. Testing is offered by appointment only through the Respiratory Tent located at the first-floor parking lot on Fram Street. Upon arrival, please remain in your vehicle. You will be directed into the testing tent by a hospital employee.
I do not have any symptoms; can I be tested?
Travelers to Petersburg (Air, Ferry, Harbor) may be tested at the Petersburg Airport every day. This testing site is only for people who have traveled and are being tested due to State of Alaska Mandates. To reduce wait times, travelers may submit an electronic request for traveler testing by visiting https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/TravelerCOVIDTest
Airport Testing Hours: Walk-up testing (no appointment) is available 30 minutes before the arrival of the Alaska Airlines flights (AS65, AS64). Once the jet lands testing will be prioritized to travelers disembarking from the flight. Check flight status at www.alaskaair.com
People who work in critical infrastructure may also submit a request through https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/TravelerCOVIDTest or call the COVID Triage Line at 907-772-5788.
What type of sample is needed?
For most people, a nasal swab is collected from the front of your nose. If you have had symptoms for several days, you may need to have a nurse or physician collect a swab deeper into your nose. This is slightly uncomfortable however a better specimen in case you have a low viral load.
How long before I get results? How do I get my results?
Depending on the reason or urgency for testing results may be available within a few hours or up to 3 days. To conserve our resources, if you do not have symptoms and are not critical infrastructure or will be able to quarantine and we will send your specimen to a reference lab for testing. A physician will make the determination for the type of test that will be used.
Results will be called to you by a COVID Hotline nurse. You may also have a report sent to you by email or you may access your results through the PMC Patient Portal.
My test is negative. Now what?
The COVID Hotline Nurse will contact you with your results. If you test negative for COVID-19, that likely means you are not infected. We know some tests may be more sensitive than others. If you do not have enough virus present, your test might be negative. It is important to monitor yourself for symptoms, if your symptoms worsen, your provider may ask you to get tested again, or it is possible you might get exposed later and then need another test. In other words, a negative test result does not prevent you from getting sick later. Continue to monitor your health and retest again later if needed.
If you are experiencing a fever, it is always wise to stay home to avoid infecting others.
My test is positive, now what happens?
The COVID Hotline Nurse will contact you with your results. You may need to see a physician, or you may be instructed to isolate at home. You will be contacted by a State of Alaska Epidemiology Contact Tracer to review your symptoms, beginning with two days prior to the start of your symptoms. Now is a good time to write down everything you can remember about the past several days to help with the contact tracer’s questions. Contact tracing is important to keep case numbers down and minimize the number of people exposed to prevent outbreaks with high risk individuals.
Does the hospital offer antibody testing?
Petersburg Medical Center offers COVID-19 antibody testing, which is a blood test that is processed out of state by Quest Laboratory. The test requires a provider referral. At this time, antibody testing currently available may not indicate you are immune to COVID 19, it may only indicate if you have been exposed to a coronavirus and not specifically COVID-19.
Petersburg Medical Center Readiness
Is the hospital prepared to care for the community?
As prepared as they possibly can be, given the situation at hand. National shortages of supplies and equipment make the preparation a little challenging, but accommodations are in place to address those shortages. Cleaning & reusing supplies, using homemade masks, and reassigning spaces to accommodate need are just a few actions being taken.
Where will all the patients go?
At the moment, a COVID-19 patient would be cared for in our regular inpatient unit. If the need warrants it:
• Mild patients with few symptoms, which are manageable at home, will recover at home.
• Moderate needs patients who need hospitalization but without a high level of care will be placed at an Alternate Care Site which will be off hospital campus, but only after the hospital nears capacity.
• Urgent needs patients will be cared for in the hospital’s acute care unit.
• Severe needs patients will be cared for in our ICU or sent to identified COVID-19 hospitals in Alaska or Seattle.
Will there be enough space and beds?
PMC has capacity for 12 acute beds. Spaces, equipment, and staff within the hospital will be rearranged to accommodate the plan for care if needed.
• Patients hospitalized for COVID-19 will be cared for in what is normally the inpatient acute care area. The hospital has 12 beds normally in that area.
• The Alternate care site can be scaled for up to 10 COVID positive patients that routine but medically supported care.
How many ventilators and negative pressure rooms does the hospital have?
PMC has access to two ventilators. We have two negative pressure rooms.
Are visitors allowed at the hospital?
Please call the hospital before coming to visit your loved one on the Acute Care Wing. Depending on the operational status, visitation may be limited or restricted.
All visitors will be screened for symptoms and exposure, must wear a face cover, and will be restricted to certain areas within the facilities.
Unfortunately, at this time, no visitors are allowed in Long Term Care. LTC has provided many opportunities to remotely visit with loved ones. Please call the LTC to schedule a virtual visit!
What if I need medical care for something unrelated to COVID-19?
PMC has adopted an Operational Status of Green, Yellow or Red depending on several factors. Under Green Status, most routine services are offered, including all types of outpatient and clinic visits. From wellness exams and vaccinations to screening mammograms, we are now scheduling appointments for most routine care. Expect universal masking, being screened at the entrance and new precautions. In some situations, you will be tested for COVID-19 prior to your appointment.
Under Yellow or Red operations, visitations will be restricted and some face to face outpatient clinic appointments and therapy sessions will be transitioned to telehealth visits whenever possible. Our first priority is your safety!
PMC Joy Janssen Clinic maintains regular clinic hours Monday-Saturday, during the COVID pandemic, walk-in visits are not accepted, and all patients are screened to determine if the visit should be conducted at the Respiratory Clinic or the Joy Janssen Clinic.
If there are concerns for COVID-19 symptoms, patients will be treated in a way to protect them and our staff. All patients will be kept isolated from those being seen for COVID-19.
All PMC providers now offer telehealth and/or in person visits. Call your provider today to arrange at 772-4299. These types of visits are available regardless of the Operational Status.
Will I be safe coming to the hospital or clinic?
PMC is taking all the necessary precautions to protect you. When you call for an appointment our registration staff will ask several questions about your symptoms and travel history. This will determine the time and location of your appointment. You will also be provided instructions for how and where to enter the building. When you arrive for your appointment, you will be asked to wait in your car until escorted into the facility. You will be provided a mask and be taken to your appointment location (bypassing the waiting area). You will notice all hospital employees and visitors will be wearing masks. If you feel uncomfortable wearing one, please let us know! Children under two will never be masked. Masks, spacing appointments farther apart and avoiding waiting rooms allows us to protect you and our staff.
Protecting myself, protecting those around me
How do I learn if there are positive cases in Petersburg or elsewhere in Alaska?
Case counts are updated at https://covid19.alaska.gov/
Alaska Dashboard is updated daily by noon: https://coronavirus-response-alaska-dhss.hub.arcgis.com/
I do not feel sick; do I still need to wear a face covering in public?
Even people who have no symptoms whatsoever may be infected with the virus and capable of transmitting the virus to others when interacting in close proximity—for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing. Wearing cloth face coverings may help to minimize transmission while around others outside of your household. This recommendation aligns with current national guidance. Masks are not recommended for children under two years of age.
What is the difference between Quarantine and Isolation?
Quarantine is for people who are not sick but may have been exposed to COVID-19 either a known contact or from an unknown source. Traveling from areas where there is community transmission puts a person at an increased risk for having exposure. Since COVID-19 symptoms may not appear for up to 14 days, plan to quarantine in a location with limited access to others in the home, monitor for symptoms and do not leave the home except for medical treatment. If you were tested because of symptoms and did not have contact with anyone with COVID-19, you may be released from Quarantine. Your COVID Hotline nurse will provide guidance to you.
Isolation is for people who are sick and either have COVID-19 or are waiting for a test result. If the test is negative, they should still stay home until all symptoms have disappeared, guidance is available through the COVID Hotline at 907-772-5788.
Where can I get more information?
PMC Public Information Officer Liz Bacom is available at (907) 772-5545 or email at email@example.com You can also follow us on Facebook @PetersburgMedicalCenter or explore the following resources:
State of Alaska COVID-19: www.covid19.alaska.gov
Borough of Petersburg COVID-19: https://www.psgcovidinfo.net/
Petersburg Medical Center: https://www.pmcak.org/