OBI Seafoods LLC confirmed on Wednesday that 37 of its employees have tested positive for COVID-19 at its remote Alitak seafood processing plant, located on the southern tip of Kodiak Island.
“The first positive test result was received on July 28 after an employee became symptomatic, and this employee and close contacts were tested,” the company said in a statement emailed to Kodiak Daily Mirror. “Upon learning of the positive cases, OBI Seafoods immediately enacted the company protocols as per our company Community and Workforce Protective Plan.”
According to the statement, the employees were immediately isolated in a separate facility on company property, employees who might have come into contact were identified for additional testing and quarantine, and the facility was temporarily closed to enact enhanced cleaning and sanitation protocols.
“Because of the remote location of the plant and out of an abundance of caution, positive cases are being transported to Anchorage via safe transport where they will remain in isolation and in the care of our medical team,” the statement said. “The remote Alitak facility is completely isolated and operates as a closed campus, so there is no interaction of employees with members of any community.”
Also on Wednesday, the Kodiak Area Emergency Services Organization announced 26 new positive COVID-19 cases on Kodiak Island from nonresidents in the seafood industry.
This brings the case count to 58 for Kodiak, with 42 of those cases considered active.
According to the organization’s press release, staff from the Department of Public Health have conducted a contact investigation and remain in contact with the individuals to ensure self-isolation and care.
Seafood industry workers have been tested in recent days as part of an increased testing effort that may soon be required by the state for seafood processing workers following growth in the number of outbreaks around Alaska, said Else DeHart, Kodiak’s public health nurse.
Last week Kodiak saw 16 new cases, at least 11 of which were reportedly from workers in the seafood industry.
“We are really lucky that this little bit of outbreak isn’t in town,” DeHart said, noting that these cases will not affect community spread in town, but added that the recent cases show how fast the virus can spread in a group.
Beginning on Aug. 11, all non-residents must arrive with a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to departure, or proof of a pending test result from a test taken within 72 hours prior to departure.
According to the state health department’s website, the negative test result will need to be uploaded into the Alaska Travel Portal either before departure or while in quarantine after arrival into the state.
The Kodiak Emergency Operations Center said that nonresident Coast Guard would be considered essential workers and travel under the guidelines of their employer and the state of Alaska.
More details about the plan and the Alaska Travel Portal link will be posted as information becomes available.
Testing remains free to Alaska residents, and residents traveling back to home communities in rural Alaska will now have the option of testing at the airport sites, “to prevent bringing the virus into our small communities,” states the website.
The Department of Health and Social Services announced 59 new COVID-19 cases in Alaska on Wednesday.
Of the total, 56 are residents in 15 communities, with 36 cases in Anchorage; two each in Eagle River, Fairbanks, Kotzebue, Northwest Arctic Borough, Sitka and Wasilla; and one each in Bristol Bay and Lake & Peninsula boroughs, Delta Junction, Homer, Juneau, Ketchikan, Soldotna, Willow and Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area.
Three new nonresidents were also identified in Anchorage — one visitor and one in another industry, and in Juneau with one person in the tourism industry.
One duplicate resident case was removed, bringing the total number of Alaska resident cases to 3,449 and the total number of nonresident cases to 734.
The press release noted that many of the new cases are people under 20 years old, with four of the patients under the age of 10 and 10 aged 10-19.
There have been a total of 137 hospitalizations and 25 deaths, with one new hospitalization and no new deaths reported on Wednesday.
A total of 257,279 tests have been conducted statewide, compared to over 6,000 tests conducted in Kodiak alone, according to information from DeHart. The average percentage of daily positive tests for the previous seven days is 2.75%.