An employee of Seattle-based Trident Seafoods, tested while undergoing a quarantine, is the first person confirmed to be positive for COVID-19 in Dillingham, Alaska, a Bristol Bay community where many residents have been concerned that seasonal fishing industry workers could spread the disease to their region.
The test results came Friday as the Trident worker was under a quarantine, required by the city of Dillingham for new arrivals there, according to Alaska’s Unified Command. He was lodged in a house shared with four other workers, according to a Trident official.
Trident arranged Saturday for that worker to leave the region. The four others have tested negative, but because they were in a house with that worker, will remain quarantined for two more weeks.
“We are pleased that our response plan prevented this individual from interacting with the public,” said Stefanie Moreland, Trident’s vice president for government relations.
Trident Seafoods is a big employer of processing workers in the Bristol Bay region, where a sockeye salmon run in the summer brings in thousands of people, many from Washington, to catch and process the fish.
Trident does not have a processing plant in Dillingham, but the five workers are employed by Trident to support company vessels.
The Bristol Bay region was hard hit by the 1918 flu pandemic, and some Bristol native and health officials have questioned whether the summer harvest should go forward this year because of the risk of spreading COVID-19.
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy has laid out a series of measures to try to keep the fishing industry from spreading the novel coronavirus in the Bristol Bay region and other coastal communities. Those measures currently include mandatory 14-day quarantines for fishermen and processors and other people who arrive in the state. Dillingham has imposed its own requirement for a 14-day quarantine, which can also fulfill the state requirement.
Trident CEO Joe Bundrant told The Seattle Times last month how the company planned to try to keep COVID-19-positive workers from Bristol Bay and other coastal communities. They would send seasonal employees through hotel quarantines and testing likely in Anchorage. Then, once in the Bristol Bay region, they would be lodged in company housing and remain isolated from the community.
Company officials chose a different approach with the five vessel support workers based out of Dillingham, where there is no Trident fishing plant. They sent those workers directly to town for a two-week quarantine with testing arranged close to the end.
The workers shared a house but each had their own rooms. They had groceries delivered to them and did not venture out into the community, according to Trident’s Moreland.