UPDATE: Sailings for the M/V Tustumena are expected to resume the morning of June 27 when the ship departs Homer for Kodiak, the Department of Transportation announced Tuesday afternoon.
This announcement comes after a press release on Monday indicating that the sailings are “canceled indefinitely”, which created some confusion. The DOT followed with a revision Monday evening that sailing dates are “fluid.” Ferry officials had hoped to keep the original Saturday, June 13 sailing.
Kodiak’s local ferry office manager, Amanda Becker told KMXT the Tustumena will be disinfected, and then some tests will be taken to determine that the vessel is OK to occupy. In a social media post, Becker confirmed Tuesday’s DOT announcement of June 27 as the Tustumena‘s target return date.
The Tustumena’s schedule was altered following the positive case of COVID-19 in one of the vessel’s crewmembers last weekend in Dutch Harbor, the Alaska Department of Transportation had hoped to resume ferry service on June 13.
According to a DOT press release, the Tustumena crewmember was experiencing symptoms associated with the virus, including a runny nose, coughing and body aches. The employee isolated, and was tested onboard the Tustemena. A rapid test was confirmed as positive while the Tustemena was still docked at Dutch Harbor, the final stop before making a return trip back north along the Aleutian Chain.
The ferry is now enroute to its homeport, Homer, where it will be disinfected and tested.
The Tustemena is currently undergoing the Alaska Marine Highway System mitigation plan for COVID-19 cases. The mitigation plan includes quarantine for crew, social distancing for the six passengers on the ship and thorough disinfecting of the entire vessel.
The Tustemena was recently in Kodiak last Wednesday as it was sailing southbound along the chain. It made 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, however officials have confirmed that that person stayed onboard at Dutch Harbor.
Public health officials recommend that all passengers who were onboard the Tustemena 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 Tustemena 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.
If you have questions about reservations, please visit www.FerryAlaska.com or contact the AMHS call center at 907-465-3941 or 1-800-642-0066.
This is a developing story. Keep your radio tuned to KMXT for further developments.