Commercial fishing and other boats are moored in the Homer Harbor in this file photo. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Commercial fishing and other boats are moored in the Homer Harbor in this file photo. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Seawatch: Vaccinated seafood workers can skip quarantine

Dillingham sets new rules exempting visiting seafood workers from quarantine if vaccinated.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck last year, some were calling for the state to shut down the Bristol Bay salmon season to avoid bringing thousands of workers from out of state into the small community of Dillingham to keep from overwhelming the limited health care system.

Instead, processors spent millions quarantining workers in Anchorage and buying personal protective equipment.

This year, travel quarantines and pre-travel negative COVID tests are not required for fully vaccinated travelers or for those who have recovered from a previous COVID infection, according to a new emergency order by the City of Dillingham.

“Proof of fully vaccinated status, or recovery from previous COVID infections, such as a note from your doctor or medical official, must be available for inspection upon arrival or upon request,” according to the new rule.

As was the case last year, no person currently infected with the virus or any variant may travel to Dillingham until they have been cleared by a medical professional.

Travel requirements for those healthy visitors who have not been fully vaccinated (which means two weeks has lapsed since the last vaccine shot), must quarantine on their own or in facilities set up by their employer for either a full seven calendar days with a negative test on the fifth day or later, followed by four days of self-monitoring; or a full 10 calendar days without the negative test, followed by four days of self-monitoring.

Everyone must complete a travel notification form, which now includes a requirement to show proof of vaccination for the easier protocols of traveling.

Face masks, social distancing, and disinfecting high-use areas at businesses and in public places will continue to be done in the area.

SeafoodNews.com reports that the emergency declaration was passed by Dillingham and the renewal of the city’s emergency declaration with the state of Alaska was approved April 2.

The vote at the city council was unanimous, but the issue is controversial among residents, as it is in almost every other city or town in Alaska. Some feel shutting businesses and wearing masks are unnecessary constraints on their freedom and damage the bottom line of businesses, communities, and larger regions.

The effort was made more difficult as the State of Alaska did not renew its declaration of emergency last winter, so municipalities in Alaska are left to craft health mandates on their own.

“The canneries did a super job last year, on both sides,” said City Manager Gregg Brelsford. “They had closed campuses, so once their workers got to the campuses, they didn’t leave until they were going home. Cannery leadership and management did everything humanly possible to keep the virus contained and avoid community spread.”

The result was only a “handful of cases” in Dillingham since the pandemic arrived, he added.

Now, Brelsford said Peter Pan, OBI, and Trident want to get all workers vaccinated.

To Brelsford, the most important thing now is to get the word out to current and future travelers to Dillingham of how things have changed since last year.

“We want to get the information out to minimize surprises when people get here,” he said.

The emergency order can be found on the City’s website at www.dillinghamak.us.

Cristy Fry can be reached at realist468@gmail.com

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