UPDATE: Coronavirus on the Tustumena, sailings to resume June 12 with new crew

M/V Tustumena at Kodiak dock. Photo by Gordon Leggett via Wikipedia.com.

This story has been updated to include details on future Tustumena sailings.

A crewmember of the M/V Tustumena tested positive for COVID-19 Saturday in Dutch Harbor, causing the Department of Transportation to cancel Tustumena voyages until June 12.

According to press releases published on social media Saturday by the City of Unalaska and Alaska’s Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, the Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) employee was experiencing symptoms associated with the virus, including a runny nose, coughing and body aches. The employee isolated onboard, and was tested onboard the Tustumena at around 5:00 pm. The rapid test was confirmed as positive while the Tustumena was still docked at Dutch Harbor, the final stop before making a return trip back north along the Aleutian chain and through Kodiak.

The Tustumena will undergo the AMHS mitigation plan for COVID-19 cases as it makes its return trip back to its final destination. The mitigation plan includes quarantine for crew, social distancing for the six passengers currently on the ship, health screenings of everyone onboard and thorough disinfecting of the entire vessel.

The Tustumena was recently in Kodiak on Wednesday as it was sailing southbound along the chain, making stops Thursday and Friday in Chignik, Sand Point, King Cove, Cold Bay, False Pass and Akutan. It is unknown if the crewmember disembarked at any point along the voyage, except it has been confirmed that they stayed onboard at Dutch Harbor.

The Tustumena has a crew of 35, with no more than 60 passengers at one time. As of Saturday night, no passengers have been identified as having close contact with the infected crewmember; however, 16 crewmembers did have close contact.

Close contact is defined as being within 6 feet for 10 minutes or more. The Department of Health and Social Services are continuing their contact tracing process into the weekend.

Passengers who boarded the Tustumena in Dutch Harbor did not come into contact with the crewmember, but were disembarked Saturday evening. Six passengers who originally boarded in Homer on June 2 are still on the ship.

Public health officials recommend that all passengers who were onboard the Tustumena since its departure from Homer on June 2 take extra precautions by wearing a mask when in public, minimizing their exposure to others, monitoring themselves for any symptoms including fever twice a day, and getting tested for the virus that causes COVID-19 if they are symptomatic. Passengers should consider getting tested 7-14 days after they left the ship if they remain asymptomatic.

If a passenger believes they had close contact with a Tustumena crewmember this week, they should immediately go into quarantine, monitor themselves for COVID-19 symptoms, and call DHSS, Section of Epidemiology, at 907-269-8000 or 800-478-0084.

Symptoms may include a fever of 100.4 degrees or greater, cough, shortness of breath, or any two of the following: chills, loss of taste or smell, diarrhea, fatigue, headache, muscle/joint aches, sweating, nausea, runny nose, sore throat or increased sputum (saliva and mucus in the respiratory tract) production.

Sailings of the Tustumena are canceled through Friday, June 12. Sailings will resume on Saturday, June 13, departing from Homer to Kodiak, with a replacement crew.

The M/V Kennicott is currently scheduled to resume sailing June 25th, with its first trip to Kodiak departing Whittier on July 1, arriving in Kodiak on July 2.

All Tustumena passengers are being notified and rebooked or refunded as necessary. The new sailing schedule is available at www.ferryalaska.com or by contacting your local terminal at 907-465-3941 or 1-800-642-0066.



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