12 seafood workers in Dillingham are diagnosed with COVID-19 as number of cases in Alaska continues to rise

The City of Dillingham has a 14-day self-quarantine mandate in place. (Sam Gardner/KDLG)

Twelve seafood workers in Dillingham have tested positive for COVID-19 while under quarantine, the Bristol Bay hub town announced late Monday, sparking anxiety in the small community. 

The 12 infections in the nonresident workers are among 35 new cases included in the state health department’s data update Tuesday. The number of Alaskans with active COVID-19 infections has also reached a new high: 264.

The 35 new cases include 16 among Alaskans, with most of them from Anchorage. The other cases are spread across the state, including one case in Nome, Bethel, Palmer and Homer, along with one in what the state describes as the “Yakutat plus Hoonah-Angoon” area.

The 19 nonresident cases include a visitor to Anchorage, two mining workers in the Interior, two seafood workers in Ketchikan and another two in the Valdez-Cordova area.

Related: Two seafood industry workers test positive for COVID-19 in Ketchikan

The 12 seafood workers in Dillingham are from OBI Seafoods’ Wood River processing plant, the company confirmed. The workers are asymptomatic and were all in quarantine together when they tested positive.

The city said in a statement that the workers were on day six of their required quarantine and had taken their second COVID-19 test. The city said the company tests all incoming employees before they travel to Dillingham, and then twice during their quarantine. 

“The individuals have been moved into separate isolation facilities within the company’s closed campus and additional sanitation protocols have been initiated,” the statement said. 

OBI said it’s working with state and local health care providers to trace the workers’ recent contacts, and is notifying them.

Ocean Beauty and Icicle Seafoods recently merged operations, creating the new company OBI Seafoods.

Anxiety has been high in Bristol Bay communities for months, anticipating the arrival of thousands of fishermen and seafood processing workers from Outside.

“Our worse fears are home to roost,” Robin Samuelsen, a Dillingham Alaska Native leader, wrote in a Facebook post. “Outsiders bringing the virus to us in Dillingham.”

Related: 3 new COVID-19 cases at Southeast Alaska seafood plant among 10 statewide Monday

Dillingham Mayor Alice Ruby was more optimistic.

“While we are always concerned to hear about positive cases of COVID-19 in Dillingham, the protection plans in place caught these cases during quarantine and are helping to prevent community spread,” Ruby said in the community’s statement.

The new COVID-19 cases announced Tuesday brings the total number of infections among Alaskans since March to 778. The total among nonresidents in Alaska is now 129, about 70% of them seafood workers.

The state health department on Tuesday reported one more Alaskan hospitalized with COVID-19, and no new deaths in Alaska from the disease.

There are now 14 Alaskans currently hospitalized who have COVID-19 or who are suspected to be infected. One of them is on a ventilator. 

Nearly 93,000 COVID-19 tests have been administered in Alaska. Over the past three days, the average percentage of daily positive tests is 0.96%.

KDLG’s Tyler Thompson contributed to this report.

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