Intensive pre-screenings, separate living spaces for infected workers, staggered eating schedules and increased personal protective equipment (PPE) are all part of newly released measures seafood processors operating in the Bristol Bay wild salmon fishery will implement this season.
All major processing companies, including Trident Seafoods, Ocean Beauty Seafoods and Silver Bay Seafoods, have outlined increased measures they will take to protect both workers and Bristol Bay communities from the potential spread of the coronavirus, which has led to increasing concern among local residents.
Most companies have submitted individual plans to the Bristol Bay Borough, and in a letter to Bristol Bay community members and Native tribes Tuesday, they outlined further commitments.
Trident is currently "offering free flu vaccinations to all permanent and seasonal employees" as part of its coronavirus response plan.
The company is also having employees undergo daily health and temperature checks at its Bristol Bay facilities, it added.
Copper River Seafoods
Copper River Seafoods is not allowing employees or contractors to travel into the local community for any reason without a special waiver.
It is also working on securing N95 face masks for workers and has eliminated all buffet-style dining, and is considering having employees return to their rooms to eat their meals as another safety precaution.
Peter Pan Seafoods
Peter Pan Seafoods is preparing designated rooms "that will house only sick employees." The company said it has already acquired "adequate PPE "and has "contingency plans" for resupply during outbreaks.
The company is also eliminating buffet-style dining and looking to screen for influenza as well as the coronavirus.
North Pacific Seafoods
North Pacific Seafoods will also screen employee's temperatures prior to the start of a shift. North Pacific is also requiring workers staying at its Red Salmon Cannery bunkhouse, Pederson Point bunkhouse and Togiak Fisheries bunkhouse to remain on-site "at all times" during the season.
Alaska General Seafoods
Alaska General Seafoods said if the coronavirus tests are available by fishing season, "all employees will be tested upon arrival and will remain under quarantine until results are available."
Workers who test positive will be placed in quarantine until they are symptom-free for 72 hours, the company said. If conditions worsen, the company stated it will use a medivac service.
Alaska General is also requiring its fishing fleet to remain on board and conduct business remotely as much as possible. It is also not allowing self-service for food or items such as trays, silverware, napkins, condiments or the salad bar.
The company will also be dialing back the arrival of employees responsible for water, power and sewage services by one week to prepare for the changes.
Northline, a largely local company, is prohibiting its fleet from arriving in Bristol Bay any earlier than May 15 to allow the region to further develop a response plan.
Northline employees are being asked to practice meticulous social distancing and self-monitoring at home for two weeks prior to entering official quarantine. The company is not planning to test for the coronavirus at this time.
All of its employees are being provided with PPE to reduce exposure in addition to disposable long sleeve gowns, goggles, face shields and surgical gloves, the company said.
If a widespread outbreak occurs, the company said, it will cease processing operations "as quickly as possible" and transport all employees to the Dutch Harbor Quarantine Clinic unless the Coast Guard directs otherwise.
The company said it is committed to keeping the nearby community of Dillingham safe.
"No processing employees shall be permitted to disembark from our barge and enter Dillingham, unless there is an emergency," the company said.
The company said in its plan will attempt to "minimize employee changes as much as possible" and noted "employees should be restricted to the processing site, if feasible."
New measures announced
In addition to individual company plans presented to the borough, processors above and others, including Silver Bay Seafoods, Leader Creek, E&E Foods, Big Creek Fisheries and Deep Sea Fisheries, committed to a long list of protocols developed by the Naknek/King Salmon Taskforce of the Alaska Fishing Industry Safety & Health (AFISH) Committee for the 2020 Bristol Bay salmon season.
Among the measures are pre-arrival questions about symptoms and interaction with any people infected with covid-19; in-person medical screenings at Anchorage or Seattle-Tacoma airports, including a temperature check; staggering meal times; refusing visitors to the facilities; prohibiting employees from gathering in groups; working with the fishing fleet to limit movement through facilities and into the communities; and direct flight scheduling to Naknek-King Salmon -- the main town on the east side of Bristol Bay.
Some members of Bristol Bay communities are unhappy with what they deem as a lack of clear planning on the part of the state government.
On Tuesday, Dillingham's mayor requested that the fishery be closed down, stating there "is no way to prevent a potential mass disease situation" with companies employing thousands of workers during the summer months from outside of the state.
Jeff Turner, a spokesman for Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy, told IntraFish the processors are working with the state to implement the submitted plans, and that there are no plans for a closure.
"There are several other commercial fisheries underway right now under the existing (state) mandates," he added.