Updated 06/10/2020 at 9 p.m.
Officials announced four more positive cases of COVID-19 at Icicle Seafoods Wednesday.
The positives add to three 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 workers were part of a group of 38 processors that flew into the community on private charter planes on May 27, according to City Manager Erin Reinders.
"Last week, there were some positives that came about in the company's quarantined group of employees," said Reinders. "And as part of that, the next step is to retest that whole group at the seven-day point. So that's where we're at right now. So this was that same group that is now being retested today."
The group has been in quarantine together and going through Icicle's protective measures and protocols since their arrival, according to Julianne Curry, public affairs manager for the company.
"Those employees have been quarantined at the Northern Victor bunkhouse, and they haven't had any contact with other people who are outside of their quarantine group," said Curry. "We've been keeping them pretty sequestered on the property and in their bunkhouse facility, so those employees haven't had any external contact with other individuals."
All the employees in the group 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 separated from other Icicle employees, said Curry.
"All of our employees who are heading to Alaska test in Seattle prior to arrival," she said. "They arrive at a hotel, they receive a PCR test for COVID by a nurse practitioner, and they quarantine. Once those results come back negative, they're cleared for travel up to Alaska."
"We then transport them as safely as we can up to the worksite," continued Curry. "Once they arrive at the Northern Victor bunkhouse facility, they are quarantined with their quarantine group. We test our employees again on day six after arrival — as per our company plan, but also as per the recommendations in the State of Alaska Health Mandate 10, appendix 1 as it applies to seafood processing workers. And after the test on day six, we test them again on day 12 prior to their release from quarantine on day 14."
Three asymptomatic individuals tested positive on June 3 and 4 and were immediately isolated from the rest of their group. The 35 remaining workers started another 14-day quarantine period, and were tested again Wednesday. That's when four more employees tested positive for the virus. All were asymptomatic, according to Curry. And because additional members of the quarantine group tested positive, the remaining workers will restart their 14-day quarantine again.
Because all employees are isolated and have not had contact with anyone outside of their cohort, Reinders 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."
"I think the important thing to remember is that these are within that same group of people and they were required to be retested now and that's why they were being tested," Reinders said. "They've been kept isolated as a group."
There are currently around 195 employees working on the Northern Victor, according to Chris Pugmire, Icicle's general manager of operations for western Alaska. Another 11 are scheduled to arrive in Unalaska Thursday.
To date, this marks eight positive cases of COVID-19 in Unalaska. Seven have been among Icicle's employees, and one was an employee of the Alaska Marine Highway System on the M/V Tustumena ferry.
Note: a previous version of this story said three additional Icicle employees tested positive for COVID-19 Wednesday. That number rose to four Wednesday night.