Alaska health officials say 135 employees at Trident Seafoods’ plant at Akutan, in the eastern Aleutians, have tested positive for the novel coronavirus and they are working with Trident to assure they have enough virus testing and other supplies to deal with the outbreak.
The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services also confirmed similar efforts to help two Unalaska seafood processing facilities operated by Westward Seafoods and UniSea, where employees have tested positive for COVID-19.
The disruptions come in the midst of the multi-million-dollar Bering Sea Pollock fishery.
Trident announced on Jan. 21 that its Akutan plant would halt operations for three weeks after several employees tested positive for the virus. “We will take every step possible to ensure our people and plant are safe before restarting production,” said Joe Bundrant, chief executive officer of the Seattle-based company.
According to Stefanie Moreland, vice president of government relations at Trident, only half of some 700 employees on site had been tested as of Jan. 26. As testing continues, the company is also assessing and monitoring the health of all individuals across the facility. Moreland also said that Trident arranged Coast Guard assisted evacuations for two employees whose condition was quickly worsening, and that more private sector resources have been lined up in case further emergency evacuations are needed.
Meanwhile employees at higher risk of illness are being transferred to monitored quarantine sites that are more accessible than Akutan for easier access to care.
All Trident workers at Akutan are being paid during their quarantine, and Moreland said morale is high on site, despite the disruption. “We’re providing safe activities, wellness support, WIFI data cards for downloading books, magazines and other entertainment, and are providing a safe checkout and return process for on-site games and movies,” she said.
Trident, a 100-percent owned and privately held seafood processing company, provides seafood to markets in over 50 countries. Its Akutan plant, 750 miles southwest of Anchorage in the Aleutian Chain, processes mainly Pollock, but also large amounts of Pacific cod, Alaska king and snow crab, halibut and other seafood.