Trident Seafoods resumes operations at Aleutian plant in Alaska after month-long COVID-19 shutdown

The massive and remote Trident Seafoods factory in Akutan resumed some processing on Friday, nearly a month after an outbreak of the rapidly spreading coronavirus forced the company to shut down operations.

The Alaska factory, perched on the edge of the Bering Sea near the small village of about 100 people, is the largest seafood processing plant in North America. Four cases of COVID-19 first reported by the company in mid-January have quickly spread by close range. Ultimately, over 40% of the 706 workers tested positive.

[Trident Seafoods had just one medical professional on duty at its massive Akutan plant when COVID-19 broke out]

There are now two positive cases at the plant, a company spokesperson said on Monday. These workers are isolated on site.

The company said 115 employees who had been quarantined at Sand Point and Anchorage arrived in Akutan over the past few days to help with crab and cod processing “at a crucial time in the season” as well as to prepare the pollock plant to begin processing this week.

The Seattle-based seafood giant halted operations on Jan.21 as the billion-dollar pollock season began and the cod and crab fishery was already underway. Plans to bring in medical supplies – and evacuate at least three sick workers to Anchorage – have been complicated by stormy weather that has delayed some flights to the Aleutian Islands.

“Several rounds of comprehensive tests brought good news last week that cases of COVID-19 had been isolated on the spot,” Trident officials said in a statement on Monday. The company plans to continue testing and screening workers for symptoms, requiring them to wear protective gear and follow distancing protocols.

The company says it is putting additional measures in place to “support a rapid response” if the coronavirus resurfaces, including an overhaul of work and break schedules to limit instances of close contact and capacity limits for allow distancing in all areas other than workstations, from the kitchen to the area for putting on and taking off rain gear.

The Akutan outbreak is one of many that has swept away fishing vessels and processors this winter.

Seafood industry workers over 50 are among the last people eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations as part of the Alaska deployment. State officials announced this month that non-resident seafood industry workers in this category could also be vaccinated.


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Tanya S. Norvell