Seasonal cannery worker tests positive for COVID-19 in Cordova

The sun sets over the harbor near downtown Cordova on Sunday, September 8, 2019. (Photo by Nat Herz / Alaska Public Media)

The city of Cordova announced its first positive case of COVID-19 on Wednesday afternoon. The infected individual is an Ocean Beauty cannery worker who had recently traveled through Seattle and Anchorage, according to mayor Clay Koplin. The individual tested positive during a routine health screening while in a quarantine facility provided by the cannery. 

Koplin says the patient is completely asymptomatic, and there’s still a chance the test is a false positive. Koplin said Ocean Beauty did one test prior to arrival and one after.

“So the first test, there was no sign. The second test there did indicate virus. So there’s a follow up test today to, you know, confirm,” he said.

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The results of the third test have not been confirmed yet. 

City and state officials have begun an investigation to identify a list of people the cannery worker may have come into contact with. Koplin says he doesn’t expect it to be a long list, because the individual went directly to quarantine after arriving in Cordova. 

Last month, Cordova residents were divided about whether outside cannery workers should be allowed into the city as the summer fishing season gets started. Koplin says as they’ve received more testing resources and developed a robust plan to handle an outbreak, public opinion has moved to the middle. 

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“In other words, some of the panic has subsided into a little better understanding of what the city and others are doing to help mitigate an outbreak,” he said. “And then, at the other extreme, those who feel like it’s really nothing to be concerned with have recognized that now there are some real risks, there are some mitigating behaviors.”

Even with more supplies, Cordova’s medical system is not set up to treat a serious COVID-19 case — anyone seriously ill would still need to be flown to Anchorage for treatment. Koplin says while they are still allowing outside workers into the city, they remain open to more aggressive measures if the situation becomes more serious.