Seward salmon plant shuts down with 34 COVID-19 cases and more expected

Seward small boat harbor. (Alaska Public Media file photo)

OBI Seafoods has shut down a salmon processing plant in the Kenai Peninsula town of Seward after at least 34 workers there tested positive for COVID-19, according to a local official.

The plant has about 260 workers, who are a mix of residents and nonresidents, according to Scott Meszaros, Seward’s city manager. He said 90 employees have been tested so far, and that more positives are expected as the remainder of the workers are tested.

All employees who tested positive are being moved to Anchorage, he added.

OBI Seafoods was created earlier this year from a merger between Icicle Seafoods and Ocean Beauty Seafoods — Icicle Seafoods owned the Seward plant before the merger. Officials with the new company didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

Seward has suddenly become a hub for seafood industry COVID-19 cases, as a factory fishing vessel with 85 infected crew is expected to arrive in town later Wednesday from the Aleutian Islands. The crew from the American Triumph, operated by Seattle-based American Seafoods, will also be moved to Anchorage for isolation.

Meszaros said the city is doing “everything it can” to protect residents, and the crew from the vessel will be monitored by security.

He also praised OBI Seafoods for the efforts it made and the money it spent to protect its employees and to try to keep the virus out.

“They’ve given us their plans, they’ve followed their mandates,” he said. “I feel very secure in saying they’re doing it right and we are supportive of what they’re doing. In lieu of that, all it takes is one sick individual to come into that environment — and they can’t keep the people that live here out of the plant.”

This is a developing story and will be updated as information becomes available. 

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