11 workers at Whittier seafood plant test positive for COVID

The Port in Whittier, Alaska (Graelyn Brashear, KSKA – Anchorage)

Eleven workers at a Whittier seafood processor tested positive for the coronavirus, according to City Manager Jim Hunt. 

The individuals, who worked at Whittier Seafood, were immediately isolated and have been transported to Anchorage, where they are being monitored under quarantine. 

“Everything’s being followed, temperature checks are being done twice a day, meals being delivered, and they’re not permitted to leave their rooms,” he said. 

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Hunt said that the first individual received a positive test on June 1 and subsequently 10 more positive tests were reported on June 3. He said the test results from Whittier Seafood were immediately communicated to the city.

“We are open, our facilities, you know, the harbor facilities are open. But we’re being extremely careful. And we have been all along, because we’re just we’re so isolated,” he said.  

According to the company’s coronavirus safety plan it submitted to the state, new employees are quarantined for 14 days and tested on arrival.

RELATED:State reports the largest daily spike in nonresident COVID cases, with 18 positives

“Housing assignments and mealtime assignments will be designed to internally quarantine newly arrived employees within the greater Whittier Seafood community.  Housing assignments, mealtime assignments, Social Distancing, and mandatory PPE guidelines must be strictly complied with to maintain the efficacy of the internal working quarantine model.  Failure to strictly comply with these requirements will result in immediate termination of employment,” reads the plan.

Hunt said he was not aware of any violation of the company’s policy.

In a press release, the state Department of Health and Social Services wrote that the workers did not interact with the public. “After arriving in Whittier, the workers were quarantined, screened daily and tested,” read the release.

The state health department on Thursday reported 26 new coronavirus cases, 18 of which were among nonresidents.  All but one of those were seafood workers.

This article contains updated after to reflect that the Department of Health and Social Services originally reported 12 coronavirus cases in the Kenai Peninsula Borough. The department later reported that in fact 10 of those cases were in the Valdez-Cordova Census area.

Lex Treinen is covering the state Legislature for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at ltreinen@gmail.com.

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