The front entrance at the Rae C. Stedman Elementary School which switched to online learning this week (Angela Denning/KFSK)

Petersburg’s latest outbreak of COVID-19, its worst since the start of the pandemic, has meant staffing shortages at the local schools, hospital and multiple borough departments this month.

Students at Rae C. Stedman Elementary School in Petersburg are switching to remote online learning for the rest of this week after COVID cases have impacted staff.

That’s despite a drop in overall active case numbers in the district Monday. That count dipped to 27 earlier Monday, down from 37 last week but was back up to 30 as of Monday afternoon. The school district says multiple staffing issues will require the remote learning in the lower grades. For the moment, classes remain in person for middle and high schools. However, superintendent Erica Kludt-Painter says that could change based on COVID cases and connections to staff and students.

The school dashboard shows 20 active cases at the elementary school, six at the middle school and four at the high school. Another 32 students and staff are in quarantine. Officials says cases and possible exposures have mostly happened outside of the school setting.

Students who are traveling for activities are being tested before and after travel. The schools are also making optional antigen screening tests available to students, staff and their families to take home.

The district has announced two additional vacation days for students, next week, Monday and Tuesday, November 22 and 23rd. Parent teacher conferences are planned online for those days 3-7 p.m. That will mean a full week out of the school buildings for students in the upper grades because of the Thanksgiving holiday and nearly two weeks in preschool through fifth grades.

It’s the second spell of online learning for the district this year; students in the upper grades went to remote learning for a short time at the end of September.

The Petersburg Medical Center Monday night reported 16 new COVID cases bring the active case count in the community to 63. PMC says the spread of the virus is not decreasing and asks residents to follow mitigation measures.

The hospital remains in red status and is also experiencing staff shortages. Some appointments may be rescheduled.

There’s asymptomatic testing Tuesday, November 16 from 9 to noon at the medical center on the Fram Street side next to public health.

The COVID information phone number is 907-772-5788.

Borough manager Steve Giesbrecht is reporting to the assembly this week that multiple borough departments are short of workers because of the outbreak, including the police department, dispatchers, public works, motor pool and parks and recreation. The borough allowed the Viking Swim Club back into the swimming pool last week, and restarted some morning swims for others this week. Otherwise borough buildings have been closed to the public since November 3rd.

Other Southeast communities are also seeing spikes, with COVID numbers up in both Wrangell and Ketchikan.