Alaska fishing boat has 85 crew members infected with virus

UNALASKA, Alaska – A factory fishing vessel that docked in the Alaska fishing port of Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands has 85 crew members infected on board with the coronavirus, officials said.

The boat named the American Triumph has departed the Dutch Harbor community of Unalaska late Sunday or early Monday and will travel hundreds of miles to the community of Seward, arriving Wednesday, Alaska’s Energy Desk reported Sunday.

The 85 infected workers represent more than two-thirds of the crew on the ship owned by Seattle-based American Seafoods Group LLC, one of the biggest firms in the billion-dollar Bering Sea pollock fishery.

The crew members who tested positive and medical personnel will be taken to Anchorage for further care and monitoring after the ship arrives in Seward.

American Seafoods spokeswoman Suzanne Lagoni said all crew members will be housed in a secure facility in Anchorage.

The Triumph will be “deep cleaned and sanitized” before continuing to fish for pollock in the Bering Sea, Lagoni said.

Lagoni cited privacy protection when declining to provide a breakdown of the nationalities of crew members.

“We are proud of the diversity of our crews,” Lagoni said. “They all have the right to work on our vessels.”

The ship arrived in Unalaska Thursday with seven crew members reporting symptoms consistent with COVID-19 infection.

The seven workers tested positive, leading to virus screening of the remaining 112 crew by Unalaska clinic Iliuliuk Family and Health Services.

All crew members were restricted to the vessel or isolation locations while the ship was docked in Unalaska, city officials said.

Unalaska is the largest community in Alaska without a critical access hospital, and the nearest emergency room is almost 1,000 miles (1,609 kilometres) away in Anchorage.

American Seafoods staffed the ship with an additional paramedic to assist crew members during the sailing, while the vessel plans to hug the coast for easier evacuation if necessary, said Melanee Tiura, chief executive of the Iliuliuk clinic.

“There are exit strategies if that additional level of care is needed,” Tirua said.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. But for some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

Get more of what matters in your inbox Start your morning with everything you need to know, and nothing you don’t. Sign up for First Up, the Star’s new daily email newsletter. Sign Up Now


This version corrects that the name of the media outlet is Alaska’s Energy Desk, not Alaska’s Energy Deck.