Tustumena arrives in Unalaska-Dutch Harbor with one case of COVID-19

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The Alaska Marine Highway System just can’t catch a break. The first ferry trip of the summer to Unalaska-Dutch Harbor by the M/V Tustumena arrived in port with a case of COVID-19, after a crew member tested positive for the coronavirus on Saturday.

On June 6, the crew member on the Alaska Marine Highway System M/V Tustumena was notified that someone they had been in close contact with tested positive for COVID-19, the Department of Transportation said in a press release.

At the time, the crew member was already experiencing mild symptoms — a runny nose, cough and body aches — but the person did not have a fever. The crew member isolated on board, and a rapid test was conducted at about 5 p.m. The test came back positive at 6 p.m.

The Alaska Division of Public Health is working to identify contacts the person had while infectious.

The ferry had a crew of 35 and no more than 60 passengers at any time during the voyage south from Homer to Dutch Harbor. The vessel has visited Seldovia, Kodiak, Chignik, Sand Point, King Cove, Cold Bay, False Pass, Akutan and Dutch Harbor before arriving in Dutch Harbor.

As of Saturday, 16 close contacts had been identified, all of whom were other crew members. All crew stayed onboard in Dutch Harbor. No passengers have been identified as close contacts.

Northbound passengers who boarded the vessel on Saturday were only on the ship briefly. The passengers were notified of the crew member’s COVID-19 positive status and disembarked the vessel at 7 p.m., with instructions to self-monitor.

Six passengers who originally boarded the vessel in Homer did not disembark the vessel in Dutch Harbor.

Medical personnel screened the AMHS crewmember and remaining six passengers prior to departure from Dutch Harbor. During transit, only essential crew will operate; the remaining crew and six passengers will self-quarantine.

No additional stops will be made along the way. After arrival to their final destination, crewmembers and passengers will be tested for COVID-19, they will then quarantine and self-monitor. 

The Tustumena had just returned to service June 2 after being in the shipyard for repairs and overhaul, and was on its first run down the Aleutian Chain.

All passengers who were onboard the Tustumena last week were asked to follow the guidance below for 14 days after they left the ship. As the investigation continues, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services will provide guidance, if warranted.

  • Wear a mask/face covering when in public.
  • Minimize their exposure to others.
  • Monitor for any symptoms including fever twice a day.
  • Get tested for the virus that causes COVID-19 if they are symptomatic and consider getting tested 7-14 days after they left the ship if they remain asymptomatic.

Tustumena sailings are canceled until further notice. Passengers with upcoming reservations will be contacted and their fare will be refunded. Passengers who have questions can contact reservations at 1-800-642-0066, Monday-Friday from 7:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. Alaska Time.

The Tustumena is being thoroughly disinfected before returning to service. AMHS has COVID-19 mitigation protocols in place. These protocols include:

  • Reminders to passengers and AMHS employees to practice good hygiene and follow social distancing guidelines. 
  • Passenger capacity on each vessel is reduced to 1/3 to enable social distancing.
  • Passengers and AMHS employees complete a health screening form before boarding. People who are sick or have recently had contact with an infected person are not permitted to travel.
  • The CDC’s COVID-19 prevention guidance is posted on at AMHS terminals and aboard vessels.
  • Modifications to food service spaces to ensure social distancing.
  • Intensified cleaning of all areas, including routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Here in Anchorage, we are all passengers and crew on the HMS Berkowitz. The point is: We can have all the social distancing and contact tracing in the world but there is virtually nothing that can PREVENT the spread of the virus. (Short of solitary confinement for everyone…). The virus coming. The only question is when. (Thanks to the poet John Donne and Ernest Hemingway.)

  2. Why was the entire crew tested before the ship left port for Dutch Harbor??

    Did the crew wear masks?
    Was the crew tested prior to leaving port?

    Were any of the household members of the crew member stricken with the virus?

    Health and Social services should be directly involved in setting standards PRIOR to ship movement or aircraft movement if we are to control outbreaks.

    Ross Bieling

  3. A crew of 35 and 60 Passengers, wow .They are back supporting the Unions.

    I just read a report about the largest container ship in the world with a crew 0f 23 and a Captain.

  4. Ed,
    Why destroy a transportation sector that has for over a half century provided access to our Coastal communities? Perhaps streamline, build supporting road corridors and make tough decisions about schedule, but sell the ships?
    Maybe we should dig up the Parks Highway too? Just wondering Ed…

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