First Bristol Bay resident tests positive for COVID-19

May 20, 2020

 

The case is not associated with the seafood industry, and the person was tested in Anchorage, not their home community in the Chignik area, according to the state.   

The Wood River, June 24, 2019.
Credit Alex Hager/KDLG

Update May 21, 2020 4:30 p.m.:

 

The first Alaskan from the Bristol Bay and Lake and Peninsula region has tested positive for COVID-19. The individual is currently isolating in Anchorage, where they were tested. Dr. Cathy Hyndman, clinical director for the Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation, confirmed that the person was from the Chignik area, on the Alaska Peninsula, but did not identify their community. 

 

The case is not associated with the seafood industry, according to Louisa Castrodale with the Department of Health and Social Services.  

 

"We are still investigating with partners to figure out the specifics of exposures," Castrodale said in an email.

The state did not disclose which community they are from because it has less than 1,000 residents.

 

On May 15, Dillingham saw its first case of the disease, but that person was a seasonal seafood worker, not a resident of the region. So far, 402 Alaskans have tested positive for COVID-19, with 352 recoveries. The total number of non-resident cases is up to 12. That includes two new instances of seafood workers who tested positive for the virus in Anchorage. 

The communities around Bristol Bay have been anxiously gearing up to deal with COVID-19 cases over the last few months. Dr. Anne Zink, the state’s chief medical officer, said at a recent news conference that the state is collaborating with federal agencies to secure additional testing for areas like Bristol Bay, where thousands of fishermen and processing workers travel to participate in the sockeye fishery. The Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation runs the hospital in Dillingham, as well as village clinics in 28 communities. BBAHC is distributing several additional testing machines to villages around the region. 

Local and state officials have said that the response to Dillingham's first positive case last week demonstrates that processor health protocols, as well as the local ordinances and state mandates, are effective. The state also says it is providing testing at the Anchorage Airport. But some residents still feel that communities aren’t adequately prepared for the commercial fishing season. A group of regional entities published a letter Saturday reiterating their request for the state to mandate pre-arrival testing for incoming fishermen. 

Editor's note: This article has been updated to clarify that the state hasn't disclosed where the individual is currently located, not that it doesn't know where they are. The article originally stated that "It's not clear where the individual is currently located."

Contact the author at isabelle@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200