Cooke-Ocean Beauty joint venture OBI Seafoods reported another outbreak of COVID-19 at an Alaska facility, the latest in the growing number of seafood industry cases in the state and the second major outbreak for the company in the past month.
Thirty-seven employees tested positive at the company's remote salmon processing facility on the southern tip of Kodiak Island in Alitak, Alaska, the company confirmed to IntraFish on Thursday.
The first positive test result was received on July 28 after an employee became symptomatic. The employee and close contacts were then tested, according to a media statement the company published Wednesday.
Workers were immediately isolated in a separate isolation facility on company property, employees who may have come into contact were identified for additional testing and quarantine, and the facility was temporarily closed to enact enhanced cleaning and sanitation protocols.
Because of the remote location of the plant, positive cases are being transported to Anchorage, where they will remain in isolation and in the care of the OBI Seafoods' medical team, the company said.
The company stated it is working closely with Kodiak Public Health, Kodiak Emergency Operations Center (EOC), Kodiak Area Native Association and State of Alaska health representatives to identify further quarantine recommendations.
However, when IntraFish reached out to the Kodiak EOC Joint Information Center on Thursday morning, a public information officer said the agency was still working to obtain a copy of OBI Seafoods' "press release" with details about the outbreak to share.
The remote Alitak facility is completely isolated and operates as a closed campus, meaning there is no interaction of employees with members of any community.
OBI Seafoods’ COVID-19 employee testing protocol includes testing and confirming negative results for all employees before they travel to Alaska and before they join the workforce, including a 14-day quarantine period on a closed campus upon arrival to the state.
As of Wednesday, 58 positive cases have been identified in the remote region.
Earlier in July, 143 workers at OBI's processing plant in the Kenai Peninsula town of Seward tested positive for the virus, making up more than half of that plant's total workforce. In June the company also reported positive cases for employees at its salmon processing plant in Bristol Bay.
Canada-based Cooke Inc. and Seattle-based Ocean Beauty Seafoods reached an agreement to merge their Alaska salmon and Gulf of Alaska groundfish operations in May.