6 more Tustumena crew test positive for COVID-19

The 7 total employees will quarantine on the ship; all 6 passengers tested negative

Six more employees of the Alaska Marine Highway System aboard the M/V Tustumena have tested positive for COVID-19, the state ferry system announced in a Tuesday press release.

Added to the crew member who had tested positive on Saturday when the ship was docked in Dutch Harbor, this makes seven total crew members who are positive for the illness caused by the novel coronavirus. The 28 remaining crew members all tested negative.

After the original crew member tested positive on Saturday, 16 other employees on the Tustumena were identified as close contacts with that person. Six more employees have now tested positive. None of the six passengers who originally boarded the ship in Homer were identified as close contacts, and none of them ended up testing positive, the release states.

Forty people aboard the Tustumena were tested for COVID-19 by staff from South Peninsula Hospital, accompanied by Homer Public Health personnel, when the ferry docked back in Homer shortly after 7 p.m. on Monday night. There were 41 total people aboard, including the employee who was already confirmed positive.

That employee and the six additional positive crew members will quarantine for 14 days aboard the ship, the AMHS said in the press release.

“The positive crewmembers are being monitored and supported by medical professionals,” the release states.

All six passengers were able to leave the ship Monday night because they were able to secure private transportation home to quarantine. Some of the 28 crew members who tested negative were also able to leave, the release states.

“Out of an abundance of caution,” the AMHS is recommending anyone who was on the Tustumena spend the next 14 days wearing a face covering when in public, minimizing exposure to others by keeping a distance of at least 6 feet, self monitoring for symptoms twice a day and considering getting tested seven to 14 days after leaving the ship.

Some of the crew members who tested negative, however, are remaining aboard the Tustumena “to help support vessel operations,” the release states. Those employees are being kept separated from the seven crew members who tested positive, according to the release.

This incident began last Saturday when the original crew member was notified they were a close contact of someone else who was positive for COVID-19. The Tustumena then docked in Dutch Harbor and several passengers boarded for about an hour before they were asked to disembark.

When the original crew member tested positive for COVID-19 that evening, the decision was made to sail back to Homer, skipping all stops on the way, with that crew member, the passengers and most of the crew in quarantine aboard the boat.

Sailings of the Tustumena are slated to resume on Saturday, June 27, according to the press release.

“This will give time for the vessel to be thoroughly sanitized and staffed with crew,” the release states.

People with questions about reservations are encouraged to call 907-465-3941 or toll-free at 1-800-642-0066, or to visit www.FerryAlaska.com.

Reach Megan Pacer at mpacer@homernews.com.