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Crew Of American Seafoods Vessel Tests Negative For COVID-19 In Unalaska

Hope McKenney/KUCB


Updated 06/16/2020 at 10:30 a.m. 

Crew have tested negative for COVID-19 on the F/V Ocean Rover, an American Seafoods vessel that arrived in Unalaska late Sunday afternoon for summer pollock season.

The arrival of the 255-foot boat had generated concern among Alaskans, after more than 100 asymptomatic crew members aboard three of the company's other factory trawlers tested positive for the virus in recent weeks.


Credit Hope McKenney/KUCB
Iliuliuk Family and Health Services, the City of Unalaska — including the Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services, the Port of Dutch Harbor, and the Department of Public Safety — along with the state's Department of Health & Social Services and American Seafoods, coordinated efforts for the arrival of the Ocean Rover crew.

"In a coordinated effort between the IFHS Clinic, City of Unalaska (Fire/EMS, Ports, and Police), State of Alaska Health & Social Services and American Seafoods, all 121 members on board responded to health questionnaires and were tested for COVID-19 as warranted," said the City of Unalaska in a press release. "Sixteen crew members were found to have possible symptoms of COVID-19 and were quarantined pending test results. All tests returned negative."

City and clinic staff would not say how many people were tested.

The Ocean Rover — which left Bellingham, Washington on May 29 — is offloading frozen product in Unalaska/Dutch Harbor and will return to sea, said the statement.


Credit Hope McKenney/KUCB

American Seafoods is based in Seattle and runs six vessels that fish for pollock, hake, and sole in both the North Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea.

Three of its six-vessel fleet have now had positive cases of COVID-19, including 92 people on the American Dynasty, four on the American Triumph, and 21 on the Northern Jaeger. 

Until last week, the Seattle-based 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).


Credit Hope McKenney/KUCB

On June 5, the company announced it would boost efforts to keep the virus off its boats, raising its five-day quarantine requirement to the 14 days required for fishing companies operating in Alaska, and the amount of time recommended under state and federal guidelines.

The Seattle Times reported last week that the crew of the Ocean Rover underwent the same shorter quarantine period as the crews of the other three vessels, and that some crew members and families of crew were concerned that some might unknowingly be carrying the virus.


Credit Hope McKenney/KUCB
The F/V Ocean Rover enters the Port of Dutch Harbor on Sunday, June 14.

American Seafoods spokesperson Suzanne Lagoni told KUCB in a statement that the Ocean Rover was at sea for more than 30 days before arriving in Unalaska, and that the vessel and its crew are in full compliance with Alaska's COVID-19 related requirements for fishing vessels.   

"Before going to sea in mid-May, all crew members of the Ocean Rover were quarantined for a minimum of five days," said Lagoni. "They were screened for signs and symptoms of COVID-19, including temperature checks, and were tested for COVID-19 antibodies and viral infection. Only those who tested negative for the virus were cleared to board the vessel."

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