The individual involved tested positive while still in quarantine in Dillingham, and Trident Seafoods sent a charter aircraft to take the employee out of the area. Meanwhile several other workers who were quarantined in the same area have all tested negative for COVID-19.
Seafood industry veteran Norm Van Vactor of Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation said the incident exemplifies why testing and enforced quarantine must be a requirement for all incoming fishermen, a much more vulnerable group, which faces more challenges than processors when it comes to sanitation, adequate quarantine, health care and evacuation support.
Van Vactor said Bristol Bay leaders have been asking the state for the last six weeks to require mandatory pre-arrival quarantine and testing, as fishermen arrive daily.
State health officials say they will now provide testing at Anchorage International Airport for incoming harvesters and seafood workers and that these folks should be prepared to stay in Anchorage for a day or two to get test results. Trident officials said that they are now quarantining seasonal employees for 14 days in Anchorage before sending them out to several of their rural processing facilities, the exception being Ketchikan and Petersburg, where they will be locally isolated for the quarantine period.
Recent testing groups have shown that upwards of three percent of industry workers may be asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19.
Without testing and quarantine these workers could unwittingly spread the virus to more vulnerable members of the population, Bristol Bay leaders said. With the world famous largest sockeye salmon fishery to start up in June, many residents of Bristol Bay remain concerned that the influx of several thousand fishermen and seafood processing workers could result in a surge of positive cases of COVID-19 in a region devastated by the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918–1919.