85 crewmembers test positive for COVID aboard Alaskan factory trawler
The factory trawler American Triumph, which experienced a major COVID-19 outbreak in June, has the disease on board once more. This time, 85 members of her 119-member crew (70 percent) have caught the novel coronavirus, according to health officials in Dutch Harbor.
As with the case of the Echizen Maru, the new outbreak aboard American Triumph raises questions about the certainty provided by long pre-quarantine periods and symptom-based screening. Before getting under way for Alaska last month, American Triumph’s crew underwent a 14-day quarantine period and passed all public health protocols, but these preventive measures were not successful in keeping the virus off the ship.
Last week, after six American Triumph crewmembers reported COVID-19 symptoms at the port of Unalaska, operator American Seafoods and the Iliuliuk Family and Health Services clinic in Unalaska screened the entire crew. A total of 85 out of 119 tested positive.
The 34 crewmembers who tested negative have been disembarked and transported to Anchorage by charter plane, and they will be quarantined and monitored.
American Triumph is now under way for the port of Seward, Alaska, located some 700 nm to the east. She is carrying the crewmembers who tested positive, along with an extra medic in the event that medical care is required under way. The route parallels the Aleutian Chain and the Alaskan Peninsula, and the vessel will be near shore for most of the voyage. Upon arrival, the positive cases will be transferred to Anchorage and placed in isolation.
“We are moving expeditiously to relocate our crew and get them the care they need,” said American Seafoods CEO Mikel Durham. “I want to thank the Illiuliuk Family and Health Services, the City of Unalaska Unified Command, and the public health and critical infrastructure professionals in Alaska who provided us with support and clear guidance.”
An American Seafoods spokeswoman told CBS that the vessel will be cleaned, sanitized and prepared to return to work in the Bering Sea pollock fishery.
The American Triumph experienced four cases of COVID-19 on board in June. Two other ASC vessels, the American Dynasty and Northern Jaeger, recorded an additional 94 cases and 21 cases respectively. After those outbreaks, ASC upped its pre-quarantine requirement from five days to 14 days.