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Trident Reopens Huge Akutan Processing Plant After Month-Long COVID-19 Closure

Laura Kraegel/KUCB

Trident Seafoods' huge processing plant on the remote Aleutian island of Akutan reopened Friday after a nearly month-long COVID-19 closure. 

An outbreak at the plantforced the fishing giant to close the facility in late January just as the lucrative winter season was set to kick off. Forty-five percent of Trident's 700-person workforce ultimately tested positive for the virus, company officials said Monday.  

Multiple rounds of comprehensive testing brought welcome news last week that COVID-19 cases had been isolated on site, Trident said in a statement. Surveillance testing, symptom screenings and the use of PPE and distancing protocols continue, and will remain throughout the season. 

The company said it's developed additional measures to speed response if the virus is detected again. Those include new shift schedules to limit contact between workers and capacity limits to allow distancing outside of workstations, from the galley to the area for donning and doffing rain gear.  

"While these new measures are burdensome, we anticipate cooperation and understanding,  given everyone's eagerness to safely return to work," said Stefanie Moreland, a Trident executive. "The management team on site has been working to make sure these operational changes do not come as a surprise, and to ensure our employees know their safety is our priority." 

115 workers who have been quarantined in Sand Point and Anchorage arrived back in Akutan over the past several days to help with crab and cod processing, the company said. It's preparing to resume pollock processing this week.  

Trident has faced a number of challenges since the start of the year. In addition to the Akutan shutdown, the virus also hit one of the corporation's massive factory ships as it arrived in Unalaska last month. And last week,another floating processor caught fire while docked at a Washington port. Trident said the vessel is a total loss.

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