State delegation visiting health facilities and processors in Bristol Bay today

May 14, 2020

State and federal officials are traveling to Dillingham, Egegik, and Naknek-King Salmon to tour processing facilities and meet with local health professionals to discuss community needs ahead of the fishing season. 

The Dillingham harbor at low tide. Wednesday, May 13, 2020.
Credit Isabelle Ross/KDLG

A delegation of state and federal medical officials is traveling around Bristol Bay today. Among them is the state’s chief medical officer, Dr. Anne Zink, Chief of Staff to the governor Ben Stevens, and Dr. Alex Eastman, senior medical operations officer with the Department of Homeland Security. The group is visiting three seafood processing plants and meeting with local health professionals, as well as city and tribal leaders, all while social distancing.

The first stop is Dillingham, where the group will meet with a health team at Kanakanak hospital and discuss the region’s medical needs as the fishing season approaches. Norm Van Vactor, the CEO of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation, sees this as a “fact finding” trip.

“They’ll have an opportunity to tour the boat yards and see what the largest boat yard in Bristol Bay looks like with boats, you know, not six feet apart but six inches apart in many cases, and where people will be quarantining on these vessels,” he said. 

After touring Peter Pan Seafoods in Dillingham, the delegation will fly to Egegik, where they will visit the health clinic and tour Icicle Seafood’s processing plant. Currently, he said, Egegik doesn’t have a health aide.

“So that’s an example, I think, too, and will speak volumes as to why we’re so concerned, right? We have a health clinic but we have no health capacity. We don’t have personnel,” Van Vactor said.   

Van Vactor said the trip is a chance for the group to see the reality of the situation in the three places they’re visiting. He says that communities have been asking the state for support for months and are just now starting to see an increase in testing capacity.

“I’m hoping that once they see things first-hand, that we will start to see some action from the state. That we will start to see more COVID testing equipment come into the region. That we potentially will see some National Guard assistance to help local law enforcement with enforcing quarantine,” he said. 

The delegation’s final stop will be in Naknek-King Salmon, where the group will visit Silver Bay Seafoods. They will also participate in a community meeting at the Bristol Bay Borough assembly, where residents in the region can call in and ask questions. That meeting will be aired on KDLG 670 AM and KMXT 100.1 FM.

The call in number is 1-844-740-1264, and the access code is 195 247 188. 

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