It was reported that one crew member became ill and was taken to a hospital while the ship was docked in Bellingham. That crewmember tested positive for COVID-19 and remains in a hospital for treatment after being admitted Friday.
According to a spokesperson for American Seafoods, all crew members were tested for COVID-19 by the University of Washington before boarding the vessel. Only those who tested negative for the virus were allowed to board.
The 272-foot trawler which is able to carry up to 142 crewmembers, has returned to its homeport of Seattle and is currently on lockdown. Crew members are being quarantined and monitored by medical personnel.
“The crew has access to any required medical care, and we are thrilled with the support that the agencies we are working with have provided,” said American Seafoods CEO Mikel Durham. “We have also put in place preparedness procedures in the event of a virus outbreak. Those plans are being fully executed right now.”
Based in Dutch Harbor and Seattle, American Seafoods has six vessels within the fleet that harvest pollock, sole, and hake in the Bering Sea as well as the North Pacific Ocean. Factory trawler vessels like the American Dynasty are able to process, package, and freeze their catch at sea.
COVID-19 outbreaks and positive tests among workers have been reported by Trident Seafoods, Ocean Beauty Seafoods, Peter Pan Seafoods, High Liner Foods, Pacific Seafood, Thai Union, Bornstein Seafoods, Bristol Seafood and Blue Harvest Fisheries. Due to close working, sleeping, and living quarters, fishing vessels and processing lines, the novel coronavirus has found a foothold within meat and seafood processing plants and vessels.
While a good number of people who contract the novel coronavirus recover, many individuals have more severe symptoms that can lead to pneumonia, hospitalization, and death. American Seafoods vessels report that they are equipped with an isolation room and a supply of medical equipment, including surgical and N95 masks, protective gowns and face shields or goggles, thermometers, pulse oximeters, and medications for crew members.
The U.S. Coast Guard, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Seattle/King County Health Department, Whatcom County Health Department, and the Port of Seattle, are all investigating and working with American Dynasty to determine how this outbreak happened and how future outbreaks can be prevented.
COVID-19 is a disease that is transmitted by respiratory droplets. These droplets are spread during social interactions and when in close quarters with workers who are either symptomatic or asymptomatic. Vessel owners have an obligation to keep crewmembers safe and healthy, and may have liability if workers become ill in the service of the ship. Vessel owners may also have obligations to third-party visitors and passengers. If you have questions, have become ill on a vessel, or believe you have been wrongly exposed to the disease while working on a vessel, please contact the attorneys at Stacey and Jacobsen, PLLC for a free consultation.