Legislative intern drove to Haines, boarded flight to Juneau after testing positive for COVID-19

Haines, Alaska. (Berett Wilber/KHNS)

An Anchorage man who tested positive for COVID-19 broke quarantine in Haines, then boarded a flight to Juneau with nine other passengers earlier this month. Since his visit, the Haines Emergency Operations Center has reported two new local cases of COVID-19.

A 21-year-old University of Alaska student tested positive for COVID-19 in Anchorage, just before driving to Haines with his mother during the first week of January. He was on his way to work as an intern for Anchorage Rep. Andy Josephson when he received his results.

Josephson said he spoke with the man while he was quarantining at the Aspen Suites Hotel in Haines.

“He seemed to be in a safe, secure place, and the conversation was mostly about helping him get through the next 10 days and how he could manage that financially,” Josephson said.

Josephson told the man he would try to arrange assistance to cover the quarantine expenses, and he was instructed multiple times by health officials to stay put in Haines.

“For reasons that I can’t fully explain, he was very eager to come to Juneau as quickly as he possibly could,” Josephson said. “He argued, apparently, that he must arrive in Juneau to start his internship. That just wasn’t true.”

Two days after arriving in Haines, the man left the Aspen Suites Hotel. The hotel notified the borough, and police found his car at the airport.

He had boarded an Alaska Seaplanes flight bound for Juneau. When the plane landed, he checked into a hotel and quarantined there.

The Chilkat Valley News reports that nine passengers on the Alaska Seaplanes flight were forced to quarantine because of their close contact with him. According to the newspaper, three passengers were traveling for medical appointments.

Josephson said the 21-year-old student will not be interning for him.

“Frankly, I was concerned about him working in my office. We can’t have those kinds of choices made when we’re doing the business of the Legislature,” Josephson said. “And I also had to worry about my office’s safety, the Legislature’s safety.”

In a statement, the University of Alaska system said it supported Josephson’s decision.

“This situation was truly unfortunate,” the statement said. “While we value our legislative internship program, the legislature made a decision to terminate this particular student’s assignment, and we agree with that outcome.”

On Monday, the Haines Emergency Operations Center announced that a Haines woman in her 60s tested positive for COVID-19. The patient is asymptomatic and currently isolating. That comes after another Haines woman in her 50s tested positive a week and a half ago. The Haines EOC did not say whether the new positive cases were related to the Anchorage man who tested positive.