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A seafood worker in Valdez has COVID-19, but state health officials don’t know how he got it

The City of Valdez harbor in 2014. (Creative Commons Photo courtesy Ronald Woan/Flickr)
The City of Valdez harbor in 2014. (Creative Commons Photo courtesy Ronald Woan/Flickr)

By Rashah McChesney, KTOO – Juneau

A seafood worker in Valdez has tested positive for COVID-19. But state health officials say they aren’t sure how the man, who works for Peter Pan Seafoods, contracted the virus because he has been in the state for a month, went through quarantine and has not left the city.

This is the city’s first confirmed case of COVID-19.

During a video announcement from the city’s unified command, Valdez doctor Angela Alfaro said the company followed its safety plan.

“This is a case where everything was done right,” she said. The employer, the individual and the screening mechanisms were all in place.”

The man was asymptomatic when he arrived and doesn’t have any symptoms now. State epidemiologist Louisa Castrodale says he was tested on Wednesday — as part of a screening effort for workers there.

“It’s not clear the source of the infection, whether this was something that was picked up locally — since the person has been there for a month,” Castrodale said.

She said it’s possible that the test picked up “residual virus,” from an infection that he had in the past.

According to a city media release, the initial contact investigation indicates that the man has been on the Peter Pan Seafoods campus since he got to Valdez. So, they consider risk to the community to be relatively low.

Peter Pan Seafoods Director of Administration Dale Schiffler said the man was living in private quarters but they have since moved him into quarantine and have sanitized his living area and the places he worked.

“Anyone the employee has also been in contact with has also gone into quarantine,” Schiffler said. “We are anticipating retesting the employee and anyone he has been in contact with as soon as possible.”

So far, ten non-resident seafood workers have tested positive for COVID-19 in Alaska. Including a Trident Seafoods worker in Dillingham and an Ocean Beauty cannery worker in Cordova.