The Alaska Marine Highway System will now require that all passengers (over the age of two) provide proof of a negative result from a COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of boarding its ferries.
The new protocol was announced after an AMHS employee aboard the M/V Tustumena's first sailing of the season tested positive for the virus in Unalaska on June 6.
The crew member developed mild symptoms — including a runny nose, cough, and body aches — during the voyage along the Aleutian Chain.
Upon its return to Homer, six more crew members aboard the state ferry also tested positive for COVID-19.
The Department of Transportation and Public Facilities had increased protective measures on the state ferry system on June 2, prior to the Tustumena's sailing, limiting the number of passengers aboard its vessels and requiring passengers complete a health screening form before boarding. However, until now, the department did not require an actual COVID-19 test.
According to the DOT's new protocol released last week, all passengers (over the age of two) are now also required to wear face coverings and practice social distancing while on board mainline vessels Kennicott, Matanuska, and Tustumena. Passengers and crew will also not be allowed to go ashore during port calls. Passengers will be allowed ashore only upon arrival at their destination port.
The Tustumena is scheduled to return to Unalaska on July 18.