5 ferry passengers with COVID-19 disembarked in Juneau Aug. 10

A blue ferry with white cabin pulls up next to an elevated dock on a foggy day.
The Matanuska docked on Friday, February 7, 2020 at the Auke Bay ferry terminal in Juneau, Alaska. The ship is headed to Ketchikan for repairs. (Rashah McChesney/KTOO)

Some 49 crew members on the state ferry Matanuska are being tested for COVID-19 after a group of infected passengers rode the ferry on Monday, August 10. That’s according to state transportation officials, who announced Friday that anyone traveling on the mainliner in recent days should monitor themselves for any coronavirus symptoms.

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Transportation officials say a group of five infected passengers boarded in Kake. They were traveling together and reportedly had no close contact with other passengers or crew.

The ferry made a stop in Sitka before the five infected passengers disembarked in Juneau later that day. There were nearly 150 people on the ship that day.

The ferry’s COVID-19 protocols require masks and social distancing on board, and none of the Juneau-bound passengers disembarked in Sitka’s port.

“We have in place a ‘gangway-up’ policy which does not allow passengers or crew to go ashore when the ship comes into port,” state transportation spokesperson Sam Dapcevich said in an email. “Passengers are only allowed to disembark at their destination port.”

The Matanuska arrived in Bellingham, Wash. on the morning of Friday, Aug. 14. Its entire crew is being tested for the coronavirus, state officials said Friday afternoon.

The small Southeast island community of Kake reported its first COVID-19 case on Monday, after a local woman in her 60s was medevaced. She’s recovering in a regional hospital.

The community has since gone into lockdown, banning all but essential travel to and from the village. Tribal health providers tested 371 people, which is the majority of the village’s population. Nearly all tests have returned negative. Some 12 tests are still pending, medical providers said Friday.

State transportation officials say the Matanuska’s crew will need to be cleared of the coronavirus before the ferry returns north to Alaska.

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Jacob Resneck is CoastAlaska's regional news director in Juneau.