Sitka Sound Seafoods is a division of North Pacific Seafoods, headquartered in Seattle (KCAW/Rose)

Sitka’s recent uptick in COVID cases over the weekend can be attributed, in part, to an outbreak at a local seafood plant.

When the Sitka Unified Command met on Wednesday (8-18-21) Public Health Nurse Denise Ewing said the outbreak occurred at Sitka Sound Seafoods. 

“It was several of their employees that became positive. They were very advantageous, and made sure that they quickly worked with me,” Ewing said. “[It] could have been much worse than what it was.”

Ewing said she’s been working with state epidemiologists and the seafood company to mitigate the spread, securing housing for all employees who were exposed to quarantine, and shut down some areas of the plant.

“And we enforced it, and I was able to activate that [mitigation plan] and to keep it from spreading. And that’s exactly what we’ve done. We’ve contained it, it is contained.” she said. Employees are testing every three days and will continue that process for at least two weeks.

Sitka Sound Seafoods is a subsidiary of Seattle-based North Pacific Seafoods. In a written statement, North Pacific Seafoods Vice President of Human Resources Leauri Moore said several employees tested positive in mid-July. The plant discovered a new group of cases over the weekend as a result of regular testing. She said the employees are receiving isolation and quarantine pay.

Read the full statement here

Neither Ewing or Moore would say how many plant workers tested positive. Moore said the plant follows stringent safety measures and requires masks for all employees. She said that the cases were “breakthrough” meaning vaccinated employees contracted the virus. Ewing said 80% of plant employees are vaccinated, but the virus still took hold there. 

“We believe it’s the delta variant,” Ewing said. “And the majority of them were vaccinated. So they are trying to do everything right, the delta variant is just that aggressive.” 

Ewing said the outbreak among vaccinated employees reinforced the need for booster shots. On Wednesday, the CDC announced that Americans who received the two-shot Pfizer or Moderna vaccine will need a third vaccine shot eight months after receiving their second dose.

Ewing said that Harry Race Pharmacy will hold a regular vaccine clinic this Friday/today. The clinic will begin administering vaccine booster shots to immunocompromised Sitkans on Friday, August 27. For information on how to register for a booster shot or initial vaccine, call White’s Pharmacy at 907-206-2202, or register with SEARHC.