American Seafoods trawlers register another 25 cases of COVID-19
American Seafoods registered another 25 cases of COVID-19 on two separate ships after the weekend announcement it recorded 86 cases on board the American Dynasty, according to health officials in Bellingham, Washington.
The company announced Wednesday, 3 June, it was taking the “precautionary measure” of testing employees on the American Jaeger and the Northern Dynasty while the trawler vessels were docked in Bellingham this week to offload Pacific whiting. While American Seafoods has not yet released a statement, Whatcom County health officials revealed the 25 new positive tests of COVID-19.
Claudia Murphy, the public information officer for Whatcom Unified Command, told SeafoodSource that the infected crew members were quarantining in Bellingham, a port city about 20 miles south of the Canadian border.
“Those 25 crew members were removed to an isolation facility inside the city of Bellingham,” Murphy told SeafoodSource. The new cases put American Seafoods’ total registered cases of COVID-19 at 111, although Murphy added other employees are being closely monitored.
“Through a contact tracing investigation other crew members were also placed in quarantine and there’s current ongoing discussions on the next steps,” Murphy said, adding that the remaining crew members are still onboard the two ships, which are docked in Bellingham.
The new cases are another blow to American Seafoods, and raise questions about how the company will proceed with the Pacific whiting season, as well as the upcoming Bering Sea pollock fishery.
American Seafoods had coronavirus contingency plans in place before the season, including pre-season screening of all employees and a medic on board each of their ships. It started a second round of widespread testing after an American Dynasty crew member reported COVID-19 symptoms on Thursday, 28 May, while the vessel was docked in Bellingham. That crew member turned up positive and was hospitalized in Bellingham.
The American Dynasty returned to Seattle over the weekend where the company worked with local health department officials to get the infected crew off the 272-foot trawler and into a quarantine facility. The rest of the crew that tested negative was being closely monitored, according to the company.
American Seafoods spokesperson Suzanne Lagoni told SeafoodSource earlier in the week that the company had four trawlers fishing for Pacific whiting off the West Coast, which means one more boat is yet to return to offload.
In a press release, the company said it is working with county and city health departments in both Bellingham and Seattle, the Centers for Disease Control, the Coast Guard, and the Port of Seattle to monitor and contain the virus.
Meanwhile, the Alaska town of Whittier on Prince William Sound announced 11 new cases of COVID-19 at a processing facility owned by Whittier Seafood. In a Facebook post on 4 June, Whittier Assistant City Manager Annie Reeves said all those who had tested positive ‘were immediately isolated and removed from Whittier,’ and the infected workers had not been in contact with locals.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Brewbooks