Home Health Nurse Manager Kirsten Testoni prepares to treat a person with COVID in their home. (Photo by Angela Denning/KFSK)

Residents debated the future of health care for this island community with the ongoing backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The conversation has to be more about the realities of living here and how we can provide the best care, the best price for the entire population,” said local resident Carrie Martinsen.

The yard signs read “SEARHC for great answers” on one side and “SEARHC hospital supporter” on the other. (Photo by Katie Anastas)

Residents posted signs around town backing the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, hoping to spark a discussion about who should build and operate a new hospital here. The Petersburg Medical Center, the community hospital for more than a century, wants to replace its aging building with a new one and is seeking grant funding.

Meanwhile SEARHC expanded into behavioral health and dentistry in Petersburg, with changes and retirements for a local non-profit and business this year.

A group protests outside Petersburg’s municipal building in February, 2021. (Angela Denning/KFSK)

Local residents protested against a face covering requirement in indoor public spaces in February.

An outbreak later that month had schools returning to distance learning and other closures. It was Petersburg’s largest outbreak of the pandemic until November, when case numbers skyrocketed. The medical center expanded its home health program, with nurses bringing care directly to patients.

“If it wasn’t for the home health people I wouldn’t have made it because I was too weak to drive myself,” said one patient, Natocha Lyons. “I was too weak to even walk. I was too weak to do anything. It’s been very scary for me.”

The borough disbanded its emergency operations center and most health mandates at the end of June but continued with an unenforced face covering requirement during times of high case counts.

Vanessa Miller cheers for Joseph Tagaban who returned home to Petersburg, Nov. 20. (Photo by Angela Denning/KFSK)

Throughout the year, the community rallied around teen getting treated for cancer in Seattle – Joseph Tagaban had a warm homecoming in November.

“Joseph’s here, he’s home, he’s alive,” exclaimed his mother, Je. “I can’t be more thankful.”

A two-family business, Hammer and Wikan celebrated a century in Petersburg with multiple events throughout the year. The Little Norway Festival and many other local events returned with in-person gatherings as well.

Art Hammer celebrated his 100th birthday and the 100th anniversary of the founding of Hammer and Wikan in 2021. (Joe Viechnicki/KFSK)

Petersburg saw a return of small ship cruises, with companies mostly requiring vaccination for passengers. One company did end a voyage in July with an outbreak during a port call to Petersburg.

Seafood processing companies mostly required a vaccinated workforce, and those workers kept busy this summer with strong catches. Fishermen saw high, in some cases record breaking, prices for many species.

The National Marine Fisheries Service designated critical habitat for three populations of humpback whales in the Pacific Ocean, but excluded waters of Southeast Alaska, much to the delight of local and state governments and fishing trade groups.

The harvest from the month-long moose hunt in central Southeast set a new record, with hunters on Kupreanof Island having the most success.

New research showed that the ermine, a small kind of weasel, living on Prince of Wales Island and Haida Gwaii are a distinct species.

It was another summer and fall of bears seeking an easy meal from local garbage cans. It prompted Petersburg’s assembly to pass a new local law that allows more fines for people who don’t secure their garbage.

Shipping problems and COVID outbreaks meant empty shelves for local stores and a lack of supplies for many businesses. Customers also waited in long lines at the post office for packages for the second year.

Local residents debated proposed federal legislation to create five new urban Native corporations and to transfer land from the Tongass National Forest to those corporations.

An internal audit released by the U.S. Forest Service found the federal agency mismanaged two timber sales on the Tongass, resulting in a loss of revenue that could fund habitat restoration work.

Bags of contaminated soil are loaded onto a barge at Level Island in 2021. (Photo courtesy of the Federal Aviation Administration)

A project to clean up contaminated soil on a Federal Aviation Administration site on Level Island south of Petersburg finished up in 2021 with a price tag topping five million dollars.

Workers install a new submarine transmission line near Woronkofski Island in July, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Trey Acteson, Southeast Alaska Power Agency)

The Southeast Alaska Power Agency in July contracted to have a new submarine electrical transmission cable installed between Petersburg and Wrangell, removing a powerline that failed in 2019.

Construction started in January on a new 15-unit affordable housing complex next to the Petersburg Medical Center. The Petersburg Indian Association also added more affordable housing space in 2021, with local leaders discussing the need for more.

At the end of October, the state said a 40 million dollar road project across the northern part of that island was completed. During the warmer months it will allow someone to drive from Kake to a boat ramp about 12 miles north of Petersburg.

Crews work on a new boat ramp near Twelvemile Creek on the eastern end of a new road to Kake. (Photo courtesy of the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities)

The U.S. Forest Service opened a new recreation cabin at Ravens Roost behind Petersburg in December. (Joe Viechnicki/KFSK)