City Hall – Photo by Shady Grove Oliver/KSTK

Wrangell’s emergency office confirmed on Saturday that COVID-19 has spread between residents of the Southeast island community. Wrangell’s previous cases were believed to be infections acquired elsewhere.

“Community transmission happens when there are confirmed cases of COVID-19 and there is no source of infection identified in some of the cases and cannot be directly traced back to a known exposure,” a statement from Wrangell’s Emergency Offices Center said Saturday. “Due to the identification of community transmission, and to reduce the spread of COVID-19, health officials and the local EOC are reinforcing the importance of practicing social distancing, wearing a mask or face covering when in public spaces, frequent hand washing and staying home when sick.”

On Friday, a resident with symptoms was reported to be infected. On Monday, Wrangell officials reported a close contact of Friday’s case had also tested positive. But a third case confirmed Saturday had no known contacts or travel history — leaving officials to conclude that the coronavirus is being spread within the community.

That brings the number of confirmed cases to 12 — half of them residents. All but four have now recovered.

The recent uptick in cases statewide has led emergency officials to reinforce the importance of wearing masks in public, washing hands and maintaining six feet distance from others outside their household.

Free COVID-19 testing is available in Wrangell to all residents from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at SEARHC AICS Clinic. For those with symptoms, the SEARHC COVID-19 Hotline (907) 966-8799 can be used to schedule appointments.