GCI announces Kodiak’s first confirmed COVID-19 patient is an employee

GCI announced Thursday that Kodiak’s first confirmed case of COVID-19 is an employee at its retail store.

“We are reaching out to our Kodiak customers so that you have the information you need to make the best decisions for your health and safety,”Paul Landes, GCI senior vice president of consumer services, wrote in an email to customers.

The employee was most recently in the store on [Monday] the 13th but had worked shifts over the past two weeks,” said Heather Handyside, GCI’s vice president of corporate communications. 

Handyside said the employee worked exclusively at the store, and did not go out on service calls in the community. GCI temporarily closed the Kodiak store Wednesday afternoon.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services listed the patient as male, between the ages of 20 and 29, and on Wednesday, Kodiak Public Health nurse Elsa DeHart noted that the patient was located in town, and not in one of the six remote villages on the island. GCI did not give any other details about their employee, citing privacy concerns. GCI’s corporate office did not immediately return a request for comment.

Handyside said GCI has taken precautions to protect employee and public safety, including an hourly cleaning protocol, adding plexiglass barriers in retail stores, and requiring employees to wear masks and cloth face coverings at work.

The company said they are working with public health officials to trace any contact the employee may have had with other employees and the public. During an update from the Emergency Services Council on Thursday, DeHart announced that they have already contacted everyone who was in close contact with the patient while they were contagious.

“So if you haven’t been called by us, then you don’t need to worry, you’re not in close contact and you shouldn’t be at risk,” she said.

Reached by phone Thursday afternoon, DeHart said there were only a “handful” of people exposed to the patient while he was contagious. The patient and the people exposed are all now self-isolating and public health nurses are following up with them daily. DeHart said one of the exposed people who showed “slight symptoms,” was tested for COVID-19 and the test came back negative.

GCI’s email to customers warned that anyone who had visited the retail store recently should “monitor their health closely and seek medical attention if they have any indications of illness.” It added that if residents are “concerned that you may have been exposed, contact your physician for a testing referral.”

“That is totally incorrect,” DeHart said, regarding GCI’s recommendation that people seek testing if they are worried about exposure. “It doesn’t do any good at all to get tested unless you’re symptomatic,” she said.

DeHart stressed that while anyone who has symptoms should call in to a health provider, asymptomatic people have nothing to worry about. “Unless we’ve contacted you, there’s very, very little chance that you could have been infected by this person.”

This story has been updated.

Check Also

Cuvier’s beaked whale found dead on Kodiak Island

Beaked whales are a rare sight and spend most of their lives deep in the …

%d bloggers like this: