The Cooke-Ocean Beauty joint venture OBI Seafoods has shut down a salmon processing plant in the Kenai Peninsula town of Seward in Alaska after 96 workers there tested positive for COVID-19, according to a local official.
The plant has 262 workers, who are a mix of residents and nonresidents, Scott Meszaros, Seward’s city manager, recently told Alaska Public Media.
All employees were tested following a single positive case last week, which was discovered in an unrelated doctor's visit by the employee in question, according to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. All test results have now been returned.
As part of OBI’s Community and Workforce Protective Plan, all employees coming from outside Alaska were tested prior to arrival and twice while in quarantine before being released into the workforce. The company has been operating as a closed campus and all employees who reside in company housing must remain on company property at all times.
Some OBI employees are Seward residents and live off campus. Of those, 11 had tested positive according to an earlier news release. All of those individuals are currently isolating in their homes but have the option of moving into company housing during isolation. This incident is unrelated to the outbreak aboard the American Triumph, which docked in Seward today so employees could be transported to Anchorage for isolation.
“Alaska is currently experiencing three large, separate outbreaks of COVID-19 in the seafood industry,” said Dr. Joe McLaughlin, Alaska’s State Epidemiologist. “These outbreaks are reminiscent of the meat packing plant outbreaks in the Lower 48 and stress the importance of vigilant symptom screening and prompt facility-wide testing in congregate work settings when index cases are identified.”
The company reported that the vast majority of the employees who tested positive say they are not experiencing COVID symptoms. No company employees have been hospitalized due to COVID to date.
Employees who tested negative will remain in Seward under quarantine where they will be monitored and tested every three days until no additional positive cases are identified.
This is not the first time a Cooke-owned company has reported positive cases.
In June the company reported several employees testing positive at its Wood River processing plant in Alaska.
Also in June four workers at Cooke-owned Icicle Seafoods tested positive for COVID-19. They work aboard the company's floating processing processor in Unalaska called the Northern Victor. That's on top of three cases at Icicle Seafoods in Unalaska that were reported on June 4.
Right now, 85 crew members that have tested positive aboard a large American Seafoods vessel are headed to Seward from Unalaska.