Commercial fishing vessels get COVID-19 mandates

Further guidelines issued on social distancing at varied gatherings

Independent commercial fishermen now have their COVID-19 marching orders from state officials, a list of protective measures, procedures, travel and access measures they must abide to protect themselves and coastal communities.

And the state of Alaska on Friday, April 24, reopened more of the economy, including dining in at restaurants for those with reservations only, and updated mandates for social, religious and other gatherings. Cloth face covering are still required for gatherings of multiple households. Amended rules for indoor gatherings now limit them to 20 people or 25 percent of capacity, whichever is smaller. A 14-day quarantine remain a requirement for those arriving or returning to Alaska. A list of all current state mandates is online at covid19.alaska.gov.

The city of Cordova meanwhile issued a new emergency order that keeps operating restrictions on non-essential businesses. All updated mandates approved by the Cordova City Council are online at covid19.cityofcordova.net.

State Health Mandate 17, issued on Thursday, April 23, requires that vessel captains maintain a ship’s log which includes information certifying that crew members were screened upon arrival and their temperature taken, and that arriving crew proceeded directly to the vessel or their designated self-quarantine location.

These measures address concerns voiced by a number of coastal community officials and residents, who expressed fear that independent harvesters arriving in their communities might be COVID-19 carriers and spread the virus all over town. The independent harvesters were also advised that in addition to state mandates, they must adhere to additional local ordinances.

The mandate notes that is anticipated that catcher and tender vessels may have local community contact for several reasons, including offloading, resupplying and maintenance, plus planned shipyard work at the start of the season. To limit contact with the public, captains and crew will be allowed to disembark their vessel while in port only for essential purposes.

Face-to-face interaction between crew and shore-based workers is to be kept at an absolute minimum for activities including receiving supplies, off-loading the catch, filling out fish tickets and refueling.

Vendors boarding fishing vessels must undergo the same screening as crewmembers. They must also wash hands or use hand sanitizer prior to boarding and after leaving and must wear a mask and face shield on board. If vendors use any onboard tools, those tools must be disinfected prior to and after use, and after a vendor leaves, the vessel must be disinfected, and all crew must wash their hands.

Mandate 17 also includes specific on-board protective measures which captains must enact and train their crew in, including ensuring that all crew wash hands before eating or touching any food items or utensils. Any crew with cough or respiratory symptoms must eat separately, and the individual designated to handle food preparation must be prepared to send individual meals to sick crew and clean their dishes separately.

The galley crewmember preparing food must also wear a mask and gloves while serving the food, the mandate directs.

Captains and crews are also required to maintain social distancing as much as possible, and the vessel must have in place a detailed procedure for cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting the vessel and disposing of personal protection equipment.

State officials, having earlier loosened the restrictions for some medical and dental procedures, also announced that some businesses closed earlier to stem the spread of the virus, including restaurants and hair salons, would be allowed to start reopening on Friday, April 24, under specific guidelines.

State officials also announced during the teleconference on Friday, April 24, that two more people in the Anchorage area had tested positive, bringing the statewide total of infected people to 339, with 208 of those individuals now recovered. A total of 36 are hospitalized and the death toll remains at nine.