Dillingham has its first case of COVID-19, state officials announced on Saturday.
According to state data, the person lives outside of Alaska, but recently arrived in Dillingham for a job in the seafood industry. It’s the ninth case of an out-of-state resident testing positive for the disease in Alaska, and it’s the fourth out-of-state seafood worker.
The state said in a news release that the individual is a seasonal worker for Trident Seafoods. Trident was arranging for that worker to leave the community on Saturday. That person is doing well and does not require hospitalization, state officials say.
Public health nurses have completed a contact investigation, and report that no one at the quarantine site had any outside contacts.
“They haven’t exposed the community because they haven’t been out in the community,” public health nurse Gina Carpenter said in the state’s news release. “This shows the benefit of these rules. These workers did everything right and followed the quarantine and testing requirements laid out in Trident’s industry plan.”
The other workers quarantining at the location tested negative, and will now quarantine for another 14 days because they are close contacts to the case. During that time, they will be observed by public health nurses. To get out of quarantine they will need to satisfy the City of Dillingham’s ordinances and, according to Trident, receive a minimum of two negative tests, including one at the end of their quarantine period.
During the summer, processors bring thousands of employees to the Bristol Bay region, and thousands of independent fishermen also come to the area. The off-season regional population is around 6,700, which is spread out through many small communities. During the fishing season the population balloons to nearly 22,000.
In Bristol Bay, the City of Dillingham, as well as several tribes and the regional health corporation, have asked the state to consider closing the fishery, citing the influx of outside workers and fishermen. In April, Gov. Mike Dunleavy released a series of guidelines for commercial fishermen, and the state says it remains committed to keeping the fishery open.
The City of Dillingham passed several ordinances at recent meetings extending its travel permit and quarantine requirements for incoming visitors. Effective May 22, it is requiring testing in Dillingham in order for people to come out of quarantine.
Free testing is available to the community through a partnership between Public Health Nursing, Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation, the City of Dillingham and Capstone Clinic. Contact your health care provider or the hospital’s question line at 907-842-9440 to ask about testing if you are experiencing any symptoms.