6 passengers quarantined on Tustumena after crew member tests positive for COVID-19

Kenai Peninsula up to 79 cases at weekend’s close

Update: The story has been changed to correct that a case reported on Sunday for Southeast Alaska is in Douglas.

Six people who boarded the M/V Tustumena in Homer are quarantined aboard the vessel as its heads back to town, after a crew member tested positive for COVID-19 in Dutch Harbor on Saturday.

The Department of Transportation and Public Facilities announced in a press release that a crew member on the Tustumena was notified a person they had been in close contact with had tested positive for the virus.

“At the time, the crewmember on the Tustumena was displaying mild symptoms including a runny nose, cough and body aches, but they did not have a fever,” the press release states.

The crew member was tested at about 5 p.m. on Saturday, and their positive test result came back by 6 p.m.

At the time of the voyage from Homer to Dutch Harbor, the Tustumena had 35 crew members and no more than 60 passengers, DOT said in the press release. The state has identified 16 other close contacts of the crew member who tested positive. They are all other crew members, not passengers.

All crew members stayed aboard the vessel when it stopped in Dutch Harbor and did not enter the community. Six people who boarded the Tustumena in Homer did not disembark in Dutch Harbor, and they remain aboard as the vessel returns to Homer. Other passengers who boarded the Tustumena Saturday afternoon and were only aboard for a short time, and who did not have any contact with the crew member who tested positive, were allowed to leave the vessel with instructions to self-monitor for symptoms.

The passengers who boarded from Homer are quarantined and only essential crew will work to operate the vessel, according to the release. As the Tustumena returns to Homer, it is skipping its scheduled stops on the way back. Crew members and the six remaining passengers will be tested for COVID-19 when they arrive in Homer, after which they will quarantine and self-monitor for symptoms, according to the release.

The Tustumena will be “thoroughly disinfected” before it is returned to service again, the release states. Sailings of the vessel are canceled until further notice. Those who had upcoming reservations will have their fare refunded.

The Tustumena had just returned to service on Tuesday, June 2 and this was its first run from Homer along the Aleutian Chain.

Over the weekend, the Kenai Peninsula continued to see growth in the number of COVID-19 cases showing up in residents. As of Sunday, the state’s total number of cases is 544, with 382 people recovered. On Saturday, the Department of Health and Social Services announced another 12 resident cases in four Alaska communities, as well as two nonresident cases. Of the cases announced Saturday, two are in Homer, two are in Anchor Point and six are on the Kenai Peninsula in the “other” category that’s used for communities of less than 1,000 people.

The other two cases announced Saturday were in Eagle River. The two nonresident cases announced Saturday are in the Municipality of Anchorage and both work in the seafood industry, according to DHSS.

The state announced another eight new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday — six in Anchorage, one in Douglas and one new case in Homer. Data on the state’s coronavirus response hub also lists one new nonresident case, also in the Municipality of Anchorage and also a seafood industry worker.

The number of cases on the Kenai Peninsula now rests at 79. There are 20 cases in Homer, 18 cases in the Kenai Peninsula Borough in the “other” category for communities with less than 1,000 people, 13 cases in Kenai, 10 cases in Soldotna, seven cases in Anchor Point, four cases in Nikiski, three cases each in Sterling and Seward, and one case in Fritz Creek.

Of the total cases of residents from the peninsula, four have been hospitalized, two have died, 24 have recovered and 53 are still active cases. Of the 20 cases in Homer, four have recovered and 16 are active.

According to data on the state coronavirus response hub, there have been no new hospitalizations for people with confirmed cases of COVID-19, and no new deaths associated with the disease. There are currently seven people being hospitalized for either confirmed cases or suspected cases of the COVID-19.

Locally, South Peninsula Hospital has conducted 2,127 total tests, according to Public Information Officer Derotha Ferarro, with 1,926 of those tests coming back negative and 163 pending. SPH has had a total of 38 positive test results, which come from both the hospital testing and the testing done on the Homer Spit.

The Peninsula Clarion contributed to this report. Reach Megan Pacer at mpacer@homernews.com.