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Unalaska's COVID-19 Count Rises To Nine, As Another Processor Tests Positive For The Virus

Hope McKenney/KUCB

City officials announced Thursday that another person in Unalaska tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of positive local cases to nine. 

The individual who tested positive is an employee of Icicle Seafoods and has been in quarantine since arriving on the island June 25.

The positive case adds toseven previous local cases already confirmed among employees at the seafood company, whose sole plant in Unalaska is a floating processing ship called the Northern Victor. 

The worker was part of a group of 11 processors that flew into the community on private charter planes in late June, according to Julianne Curry, public affairs manager for the company.

"The employee who tested positive was in a non-working quarantine at the time of the test. The employee was tested as part of our routine testing and quarantine program and tested negative in Seattle prior to travel to Unalaska, then tested positive during the mid-quarantine (6 day) test," Curry said. 

All the employees in the travel cohort had tested negative for COVID-19 in Seattle before traveling to Alaska. In Unalaska, the entire group was immediately put into quarantine in Icicle's housing and has been going through the company's protective measures and protocols, said Curry. 

Upon receiving the positive test result, the employee was placed in isolation on company property per state public health guidance, and close contacts are being identified through the state's contact tracing process, according to city officials. 

When tested, the employee was lodged in a bunkhouse away from the plant, said Curry. Only the roommate of the worker who tested positive was identified as a close contact, and will thus need to re-start the 14-day quarantine and testing clock.

The employee remains asymptomatic and is under the care of the Northern Victor medic who is in frequent communication with the Unalaska medical team and state health officials, according to Curry. She said there is little threat to community members since ?Icicle's Northern Victor facility is operating as a "closed campus," where all employees are restricted to company property to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Melanee Tiura, CEO of Iliuliuk Family and Health Services, said the City of Unalaska is not concerned about community spread at this time and will not be increasing its assessment of the local risk level – which is currently set at "medium."

"We should all keep doing what we can do to stay safe, being responsible in our choices, washing our hands a lot, and following the local mandates," said Tiura. "Our current strategies are working very well in Unalaska. With increases in cases throughout the state, this is the time for us to remain diligent."

There are currently 215 employees working on the Northern Victor, according to Curry, with no more on the way.

To date, this marks nine positive cases of COVID-19 in Unalaska. Eight have been among Icicle's employees, and one wasan employee of the Alaska Marine Highway System who tested positive for the virus in Unalaska on the M/V Tustumena's first ferry trip of the season. 

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