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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.