Alaska eases quarantine protocol as COVID-19 cases rise
Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy released a revised travel protocol on 3 June that gives travelers options to get around the 14-day quarantine period, but the state is experiencing a hike in COVID-19 cases as the summer fishing season ramps up.
Dunleavy and state health officials announced they are waiving the state’s 14-day quarantine period for travelers who test negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of their flight. The quarantine can also be avoided with a negative test five days before departure and another test upon arrival in Alaska, the document said, or by testing and self-isolating in Anchorage until test results are received. The new travel protocol will go in place Friday, 5 June.
The Anchorage Daily News reported that the Dunleavy administration will keep an eye on daily COVID-19 infections to decide whether the new travel protocol is safe.
The coronavirus has been slow to spread in Alaska, but recent days have seen an uptick in cases. The ADN reported Alaska had registered 33 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, 3 June, after seeing single-digit daily infections for much of May.
The state’s COVID-19 information page reported on Wednesday total cases for the state sat at 505, with 10 deaths statewide. Around 20 of the cases were registered as non-resident.
Meanwhile, KUCB reported that the fishing hub Unalaska experienced its first two cases of COVID-19, both in seafood processing workers employed by Icicle Seafoods. KUCB reported the workers had tested negative in Seattle and then come up positive while under 14-day quarantine in Unalaska.
Icicle Seafoods Chris Pugmire, who manages their operations for Western Alaska, told KUCB that the two men had immediately been isolated, and that Icicle was working with local officials in a “swift and coordinated response.”
Unalaska is home to Dutch Harbor, a major port where large trawlers and longliners dock before fishing for the upcoming pollock season. The community in Unalaska is closely monitoring situations like the outbreak on American Seafoods’ American Dynasty that saw 86 infections during a recent 15-day trip to fish for Pacific whiting off the West Coast. In a press release on 3 June, American Seafoods said it was testing all crew members on two other vessels, the American Triumph and the Northern Jaeger. After fishing for Pacific whiting, American Seafoods’ trawlers typically head to Unalaska to fish for pollock.
Meanwhile, processing workers and fishermen were arriving to Bristol Bay, Alaska, where the world’s largest sockeye salmon run brings in around 12,000 non-resident workers on a normal year. The Bristol Bay hub of Dillingham is getting a 30-bed field hospital to help treat a potential outbreak, according to local NPR satellite KDLG. KDLG also reported that Bristol Bay’s Camai Community Health Center has ramped up testing for COVID-19 and estimates it will test 5,000 processing workers and 2,000 fishermen in June.
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