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American Seafoods Tests Crews For COVID-19 As 'Precautionary Measure'

Hope McKenney/KUCB

A company that fishes in the North Pacific and Bering Sea is testing crew members on two more vessels after more than 80 people on a different ship tested positive for COVID-19 in recent days.

Crew members on two American Seafoods trawlers – 114 on the American Triumph and 117 on the Northern Jaeger – are being tested for COVID-19 as a precautionary measure, the company said.

Spokesperson Suzanne Lagoni said one crew member reported feeling sick last week and that the company is conducting these tests out of an "abundance of caution."

"We did have a number of positive tests on a vessel earlier in the week, on the American Dynasty," said Lagoni. "And on the Northern Jaeger a few days ago, one crew member reported feeling ill and that person was transported to the hospital and has since tested negative for COVID-19."

This follows an announcement from American Seafoods over the weekend that 86 crew members of another trawler – the American Dynasty – tested positive for COVID-19. That happened after the Dynasty was fishing for a cod-like fish called hake off Washington's coast.

The factory trawler returned to its home port of Seattle where all crew members are being quarantined and monitored by medical personnel, according to Lagoni. 

Before leaving port at the beginning of the season, crew members were tested for the virus and only those who tested negative were cleared to board.

"They had several tests for COVID-19 and they had some quarantine of crew members," said Lagoni. "And only after the quarantine and after the tests came back negative, was a crew member allowed to come onto the ship and be part of the crew going out fishing." 

However, the company said it required only a five-day quarantine, which is far less than the two weeks that it can take for people infected with COVID-19 to show symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The American Dynasty is a trawler with an onboard factory to process, package, and freeze fish while at sea. It was last in the Aleutian fishing port of Dutch Harbor at the end of March and is set to return for pollock season, which starts later this month and ends Nov. 1. 

American Seafoods said it's cooperating with the U.S. Coast Guard, the CDC, and the Port of Seattle, among others, to conduct a complete investigation.

Nine tests on the American Dynasty are still outstanding.

Hope McKenney is a public radio news director, reporter, producer and host based in the Aleutian Islands, Alaska.
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