Crew members on two American Seafoods vessels, the American Triumph and the Northern Jaeger, were yesterday being tested for COVID-19 as a precautionary measure on their arrival in Bellingham, Wash.
On the Northern Jaeger, one crew member reported feeling ill on-board last week and was transported to hospital. Though testing negative for COVID-19, the crew member remained in the hospital recovering from the illness.
“We’re conducting these tests out of an abundance of caution,” said American Seafoods CEO Mikel Durham. “Protecting the health of our crew members and the communities where we operate is a top priority for us.”
American Seafoods Company previously reported that a crew member from the American Dynasty had tested positive for COVID-19. As a result, the company tested the entire crew and on May 30 an additional 85 crew members were confirmed positive. Currently the vessel is docked at the Port of Seattle and all crew are in quarantine in facilities in Seattle.
The company had screened all its crew members before they boarded vessels in mid-May to take part in the Pacific Whiting season. Only crew members who tested negative for the coronavirus were allowed on board.
American Seafoods is closely coordinating with a variety of agencies in its response to COVID-19. Those include Whatcom County Health Department, Public Health—Seattle & King County, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Coast Guard, Whatcom County Unified Command, and the Port of Seattle.
The COVID-19 cases on the fishing vessels occurred despite extensive precautions. Here’s what the company says about those precautions on its website:
American Seafoods is committed to the health and safety of our crew, employees, and the communities we operate in. It’s our top priority. We have a “Fit for Duty” requirement for our crew and this year we have added new COVID-19 related testing and screening procedures for all crew prior to departure. Those include:
Prior to the Hake season, all crewmembers were quarantined for a minimum of five days.
Screening and Testing
Prior to Hake crew-up, crew members report to a central location for initial temperature screening and a series of questions.
If crew members passed that screening, blood was drawn to conduct a test for COVID-19 antibodies and a nasal swab is taken to test for the COVID-19 virus RNA. Crewmembers returned to their quarantine location to await test results, which took approximately 24 hours. Once they were cleared for duty, and the vessel was disinfected, the crew boarded their vessel. Each vessel then went on “lock down” with only cleared crew allowed to enter the vessels.
Each vessel undergoes an enhanced cleaning procedure prior to crew boarding. While at sea, enhanced cleaning procedures continue.
On each vessel, we have isolation space to separate anyone who is ill. Special attention has been given to airflow to and from these isolation rooms.
At Sea Precautions
Each vessel follows protocols to mitigate the spread of any illness aboard the vessel. These include continuing to closely monitor crew members after they board a vessel, wearing face coverings in common areas, new galley procedures, and no-contact off-loading operations and supply replenishment.
Caring for crew members who show signs or symptoms of COVID-19 at sea
Each of our vessels has a plan in place to ensure that on-board crew receive appropriate care in the event of a potential infection. Each vessel is equipped with an isolation room and a supply of medical equipment that is appropriate for a COVID-19 response. This includes surgical and N95 masks, protective gowns, face shields or goggles, thermometers, pulse oximeters, and medication. Contracted medics are aboard each vessel to assist with COVID-19 monitoring and care. We have telemedicine capabilities so that our on-board safety teams can receive real-time guidance and advice from onshore medical professionals, if needed.
Informing our communities
The U.S. Coast Guard and CDC are notified according to agency requirements. COVID-19 protocols are followed when crewmembers show signs of illness. Those crew members are carefully assessed in consultation with telemedical providers to determine the course of care and protection.
Every effort is made to separate an infected individual from members of the general public. If the individual is transferred from the vessel to a local hospital, appropriate protection measures like wearing PPE are taken and the facility is notified in advance that the patient may have the coronavirus. If the individual does not require hospitalization, that person will be quarantined for further testing in a pre-designated location where special precautions have been established.