Fishermen Break Quarantine, Raising COVID-19 Risk in Unalaska

Seafreeze America (United States Seafoods)

Published Apr 19, 2021 7:38 PM by The Maritime Executive

Local officials in Dutch Harbor are considering fines for a number of fishermen who were exposed to COVID-19, broke quarantine, visited a local bar and later tested positive for the virus. They exposed an unknown number of citizens who were at the bar after 2200 hours on April 10, forcing the city of Unalaska to reinstitute risk guidelines which had just been lifted in March. 

At least 26 out of the 51 crewmembers of the factory trawler Seafreeze America have tested positive for the virus so far. After the first few cases were detected, the ship returned to port in Dutch Harbor and the crew was sequestered in on-shore quarantine quarters as a precautionary measure. Despite knowledge that they could have COVID-19, an undisclosed number of the crewmembers snuck out of quarantine without permission to visit the Norwegian Rat Saloon - and exposed local citizens to coronavirus. 

In response, the City of Unalaska revised the risk level for coronavirus infection to "high," indicating more stringent social distancing requirements. The city's response plan calls for closing public buildings and recommending the suspension of non-essential activities when a state of "high" risk is declared. Unalaska's schools will remain open for now, and once two weeks with no additional community spread cases have passed, the city may give consideration to stepping back down to "medium risk."

Individuals who were at the bar have been asked to get tested for COVID-19, unless they have already been vaccinated or have recovered from the disease in the last three months. 

According to local public media outlet KUCB, the chief operating officer of U.S. Seafoods has issued an apology to the city of Unalaska for the breach of quarantine. "We regret that these individuals made terrible decisions, put a lot of people at risk and harmed a lot of people. We are as outraged as you are," U.S. Seafoods COO Dave Wood said. 

Seafreeze America was last in the news for a COVID-related incident in March 2020. According to federal prosecutors, galley assistant Maurice Young allegedly broke the eye socket of a crewmate who had criticized him for "serving food without gloves" in breach of COVID-19 precautionary measures. The victim was transported to Anchorage for surgery and Young was charged with assault.