On December 18 at age 73 Alaska seafood worker Benny Daquilanea died from complications related to COVID-19, reported the Kodiak Daily Mirror.
Daquilanea was a pillar of Kodiak’s seafood processing industry and Filipino community, the news site reported. He worked as the head production supervisor at Alaska Pacific Seafoods.
"His immense competence and that fabulous smile helped hundreds of Kodiak fishermen and processing workers make a living and helped to feed the world," the Kodiak Maritime Museum posted on Facebook about his passing, with hundreds of commenters offering condolences.
Earlier this month Chris Barrows, president of Pacific Seafood Processors Association (PSPA), sent a letter to the state of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, asking the state recognize "worker’s contributions to the nation’s food supply and the fact that these workers are at substantially higher risk of exposure due to the nature of the congregate work environment," in its distribution of Pfizer/BioNTech and the Moderna vaccines to Alaska.
The non-profit trade association's major processing members include Alaska General Seafoods, Alyleska Seafoods, Golden Alaska Seafoods, Peter Pan Seafoods, Phoenix Processor Limited Partnership, Trident Seafoods, Unisea and Westward Seafoods.
The vaccine for the virus is currently in short supply across the state, with hospital-based frontline health care workers, residents and staff at long-term care facilities, emergency personnel, community health aides and people performing vaccinations currently eligible to receive it, according to the Anchorage Daily News.
State officials have said it will likely take until the end of January to distribute it to another group of health care workers that are also part of its Phase 1A plan.
Barrows is advocating for the state to follow the Federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, or ACIP, recommendations of including seafood workers in the next eligible group that will be part of Phase 1B.
In preparation for the Alaska pollock “A” season in mid-January, seafood facilities from Kodiak to Unalaska have already started increasing their workforces and vessels and motherships have commenced crew quarantine protocols, Barrows said in his letter.
"Seafood employees come from all over to work in Alaska, and more than 7,000 employees are Alaska residents," he wrote. "The vaccine will only be an effective tool to protect the critical infrastructure (food-producing) workforce and remote Alaska communities in which they work if we can obtain a high rate of vaccination within our workforce."
"Many employees are at high risk of severe illness because of preexisting conditions or age," he added.
Alaska’s vaccine allocation advisory committee will meet later this week to better define who is in Phase 1B, according to Alaska Public Radio.
'Despite our best efforts to maximize prevention and bolster mitigation through implementation of community and workforce protection plans, seafood workforces remain in an environment of higher risk," Barrows said.