Nearly 100 workers at a seafood processing plant in Seward have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Wednesday — the largest outbreak yet in the small coastal community.
The outbreak was identified when an employee at OBI Seafoods tested positive for the disease on Sunday, according to a Wednesday release from Alaska’s Department of Health and Social Services. The initial positive case prompted the company to test all 262 employees at the plant. All the test results have now come back from the commercial lab contracted by the company; 96 of the employees tested positive.
All nonresident employees were tested once prior to their arrival and twice while in quarantine before being released into the workforce. The company has been operating as a closed campus, according to the release. All employees who are living in company housing must remain on company property at all times. Of the positive cases, 11 are Seward residents who live off campus.
All of the residents who have tested positive are isolating in their homes. The outbreak is unrelated to the one that occurred on the American Triumph, which docked in Seward Wednesday so that employees who tested positive for COVID aboard the vessel could be transported to Anchorage for isolation.
“Alaska is currently experiencing three large, separate outbreaks of COVID-19 in the seafood industry,” Alaska’s Chief Epidemiologist Joe McLaughlin said in the press release. “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.”
These cases were not reflected in the state’s Case Count Summary for Wednesday, which includes cases that were reported the previous day.
The employees who tested positive were transported to Anchorage Wednesday for isolation. OBI will provide all medical care, monitoring, security and housing for the positive employees. Employees who tested negative remained in Seward under quarantine, where they will be monitored and tested every three days until no additional positive cases are identified.