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Unalaska Resident Tests Positive For COVID-19 During Travel-Related Quarantine

Hope McKenney/KUCB


Updated 07/31/20 at 4:30 p.m. 


A resident of Unalaska has tested positive for COVID-19 after being tested for the virus during their locally-mandated 14-day quarantine period, city officials reported Friday. 


The individual is a family member of an employee of Westward Seafoods, Inc. (WSI). They were traveling and contracted the virus in another state, officials said. 


The individual arrived in Unalaska via commercial air on July 29, and in accordance with Westward's mitigation plan, went immediately into quarantine. They were tested as part of the company's COVID-19 protective plan, which includes testing of quarantined employees multiple times during their 14-day quarantine period, said Melanee Tiura, clinic director at Iliuliuk Family and Health Services. 


"We do have one individual who tested positive yesterday, just a day after travel," said Tiura. "They did travel to the community from out-of-state. So contact tracing has begun on those they had direct interaction with. We know of one so far, and that individual has also been quarantined."


Upon receiving the positive test result, the individual was placed in isolation per state public health guidance, and close contacts are being identified through the state's contact tracing process.


The Westward safety team has done a "great job" of coordinating with clinic personnel to make sure that the individual has what they need and that all the appropriate next steps are taken, said Tiura. 


"WSI thanks Unalaska Unified Command for their help and professionalism in carrying out our COVID-19 Response Plan," WSI said in the statement. "The dedication of all involved allowed us to catch this case at the very start of our quarantine protocols, minimizing exposure to the community. WSI will take all steps necessary to ensure our family member will get the proper care and treatment to assist in their recovery and prevent transmission in the community. We wish everyone impacted by COVID-19 well in this difficult time." 


Tiura said there is no risk of community spread at this time. Therefore, the city's assessment of the local risk level is still set at "medium," per the thresholds established by Unalaska's multi-agency unified command Emergency Operations Center (EOC)


"The process that Westward uses to pick people up at the airport to get them into their quarantine site — all of that has been good," Tiura said. "So we're taking appropriate precautions with any individuals they had direct interface with. Since the travel was so close to the time of identifying the positive case, with contact tracing, we may learn more."


To date, this marks 97 positive cases of COVID-19 in Unalaska. In addition to Friday's positive case, 85 have been among American Seafoods crew members, eight have been among Icicle Seafoods employees, one was a Resolve-Magone Marine employee last week, one was a Pacific Stevedoring employee in early July, and one was anemployee 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 in early June. 

The state currently shows five Unalaska residents with positive tests for the virus. Regardless of where a person tests, whether in Unalaska, within the State of Alaska, or in another state, a positive result will be reported for Unalaska if that person is considered a resident of the island, said Tiura. 

"For the state, they attribute positive cases to Unalaska if they've been tested anywhere and Unalaska is their home residency. So that's how the state does it," Tiura explained. "Whereas we're very concerned with what's in the community currently. So at the time that we have a positive test — no matter where they are from — that's what we're correlating with our risk factors."

Most of the individuals who tested positive at Unalaska's clinic have left the island and their care has been transferred to another provider, according to the city. Therefore, they cannot accurately report on the number of people who may be considered recovered or a current number of active cases. Personnel at the clinic are coordinating with the state's Department of Health and Social Services regarding protocols for the persons who tested positive and remain on the island.


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