Crew of cargo ship from China to remain onboard in Unalaska due to coronavirus quarantine

The U.S. Coast Guard is taking precautionary measures for the Johannes Maersk, in light of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in China. (Hope McKenney/KUCB)

A commercial cargo vessel coming from China arrived in Unalaska Tuesday.

The U.S. Coast Guard is taking precautionary measures with the 711-foot boat in light of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in China – which has killed more than 1,000 people and prompted the declaration of a global health emergency from the World Health Organization.

Jeff Deronde, a chief marine science technician with the Coast Guard’s local Marine Safety Detachment Unit, said the Johannes Maersk’s last six ports of call were in China. The ship is homeported in Denmark. None of the crew are Chinese nationals.

“We have received a statement from the vessel that there are no sick crew members onboard the vessel,” said Deronde. “That came from the master, and that’s something we’re requiring as well: If any vessels do come in from China, (we) get a statement attesting to the fitness of the crew and basically attesting that there are no ill crew members onboard.”

Still, Deronde said the 23 crew members will not be allowed to leave the vessel while it’s in port and conducting cargo operations. That’s because there’s a 14-day federal quarantine order for vessels and people traveling from China aimed at preventing the spread of the virus. 

Interim Police Chief John Lucking said the Coast Guard is taking every measure to ensure the virus doesn’t reach Unalaska. 

“I want to proactively dispel any rumor that there is a confirmed case [of coronavirus] in town. That’s certainly not the case,” said Lucking at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

“We do have a visit from a ship [coming from China], and the Coast Guard is following every procedure, protocol, and protective measure they can…This is a routine matter at this point,” Lucking continued. “No one on the ship has been sick, and we are just continuing business as usual.”

Public health officials said there have been no cases of novel coronavirus in Alaska.

Locally, officials with Iliuliuk Family and Health Services said they are monitoring the situation closely and asking anyone who has traveled to or from China since Dec. 1 and is experiencing upper respiratory symptoms to call the clinic at 581-1202.

They also recommend Unalaskans stay healthy during flu season by getting flu shots, washing their hands frequently and staying home from work or school if they have a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

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