By Jacob Resneck at CoastAlaska in Juneau
Passengers on Alaska’s mainline ferries are now being required to get a COVID-19 test before traveling. The Alaska Marine Highway System announced a set of new protocols Sunday it says will protect against the spread of coronavirus on its vessels.
And with some exceptions, passengers 2 years and older will be required to cover their faces. Passengers on shorter haul voyages aboard the LeConte and will be asked to sign a screening form attesting they’ve had no symptoms nor have traveled to an infected area without social distancing.
But the testing requirement – which mirrors rules for visitors arriving from outside Alaska – will be in force on the fleet’s mainliner ships: Kennicott, Matanuska and Tustumena – even for short trips. Passengers will have to show evidence of a negative test from within 72 hours before being allowed to travel. Passengers and crew will also not be allowed on shore during port calls and will only disembark at their final destination.
Alaska’s ferry link with the Lower 48 is scheduled to resume Thursday with a return voyage from Ketchikan to Bellingham. Passengers are being notified of the new testing rule, though it can take several days for COVID-19 results to be processed.
The marine highway began running ferries at reduced capacity it says to allow social distancing on board. The policy wasn’t announced in advance and some passengers reported being turned away and denied tickets. Earlier this month seven crew members tested positive for COVID-19 aboard the Tustumena during a trip to the Aleutians. All sailings were cancelled this month.