The latest: Alaska virus cases rise hangs in triple digits

Several dozen seafood workers among nonresidents testing positive for COVID-19

Updated, 7:30 p.m., July 21.

Eight more nonresident seafood workers from Southeast Alaska to the city of Kodiak are among the latest 111 people testing positive for COVID-19, state health officials said.

In all, the newly infected include 92 residents in 18 communities and 17 nonresidents in seven areas of the state, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services said on Tuesday, July 21.

The list includes 64 in Anchorage, which leads the state in COVID-19 infections, with a total of 936 individuals, including nine who have died.

The 11 communities with newly infected residents also include five each in Fairbanks and Wasilla, plus Soldotna three, Homer two, and one each in Aleutians East Borough Bethel Census Area, Eagle river, Juneau, Kenai, Kotzebue, North Slope Borough, Palmer, Southeast Fairbanks Census Area, Seward, Sitka, Sutton and Valdez-Cordova Census Area.

The 17 new nonresident cases include six seafood workers in Juneau, plus one each in the municipality of Anchorage and Kodiak Island Borough, plus three in unknown locations, two more in the municipality of Anchorage and one each in Kenai Peninsula Borough, Matanuska-Susitna Bough and the Valdez-Cordova area.

The statewide total of resident cases of COVID-19 rose to 2,041, and the nonresident count to 484, state health officials said. Five new hospitalizations pushed the overall number of those hospitalized to 105, while the death toll was unmoved at 18 deaths from the virus.

Seven hundred and thirty-seven residents have recovered, including 25 new recoveries reported on Monday, July 20.

DHSS officials also issued a weekly roundup noting that total cases of infected Alaska residents rose by over 25 percent in one week alone, with the majority of cases among Alaskans aged 20-29.  The report said that hospital capacity remains adequate. Still given the current rate of physical distancing, face covering use and other measures to prevent transmission, the number of cases is expected to continue to rise rapidly, the report said.

State health officials also noted that the 85 crew members of the American Seafoods Company

who tested positive on July 18 constituted the state’s largest discrete COVID-19 outbreak to date. “The exceptionally high attack rate among crew members underscores how efficiently this virus spreads in congregate settings,” said Dr. Joe McLaughlin, the state epidemiologist.

American Seafoods Company in Seattle released at statement online acknowledging that additional crew members of the American Triumph tested positive for COVID-19 this week in Unalaska. The company said American Seafoods had tested and screened the 119-person crew after six reported COVID-19 symptoms and tested position.  In total there were 79 newly positive crew members, the company said.

The Triumph left Unalaska on Sunday, July 19, headed to Seward, and was expected to arrive on Wednesday, July 22, said company spokesperson Suzanne Lagoni. From Seward, those crewmembers were to be bused to Anchorage and housed in a secure facility while completing their quarantine.

All crew aboard the American Triumph were quarantined for a minimum of 14 days and passed all public health protocols before boarding the vessel to sail to Alaska on June 27.

The city and borough of Juneau meanwhile issued a statement saying that after nine employees of Alaska Glacier Seafoods tested positive for COVID-19 last week that some 113 remaining employees aboard that vessel were tested, with 26 additional employees confirmed positive on July 18. All 32 of those individuals are in isolation and results from remaining tests are pending. It is not yet known how many of the Alaska Glacier Seafoods workers are residents and nonresidents, Juneau officials said.  The original grouping of nine positive cases at the company stemmed from one employee who contracted the virus through community spread.

A total of 178,626 tests have now been conducted. The average percentage of daily positive test for the previous three days as of July 21 was 2.3 percent.

Updates on the impact of COVID-19 are posted daily at coronavirus-response-alaska-dhss.hub.arcgis.com.

For Cordova updates, visit the city’s COVID-19 dashboard here.