Massive COVID-19 outbreak found at OBI Seafoods Seward

Jul 22, 2020

OBI Seafoods plant in Seward.
Credit Icicle Seafoods/screengrab KBBI

    The State of Alaska announced Wednesday evening that over one-third of the employees at a seafood processing plant in Seward have tested positive for COVID-19.

    The plant is owned by OBI Seafoods, the new company formed by the merger of Ocean Beauty and Icicle seafood companies. The Department of Health and Social Services reported that 96 of the plant’s 262 employees were positive for COVID-19 after being tested this week.

    The infections were stumbled upon when a single OBI employee went to Providence Seward Medical Center on Sunday for an unrelated health issue and was given a test for coronavirus, according to the DHSS. When the test came back positive, OBI Seafoods and the Seward Community Health Center tested all employees of the plant and implemented isolation protocols.

    OBI is quoted in the DHSS release that the vast majority of the infected employees are not experiencing COVID symptoms.

    All OBI Seafoods employees from Outside were tested before arriving in Alaska, and twice while in quarantine before being allowed to start work, according to the company’s state-approved community and workforce protection plan. 

None of the 96 people testing positive have required hospitalization, and they have been transported to Anchorage for isolation, though the location was not revealed. Employees testing negative will remain in Seward and be retested every three days.

OBI operates a closed campus, where employees who live in company housing must remain on company property at all times, however, some employees are Seward residents and live off-site. Of those, 11 tested positive. According to DHSS, all of those employees are currently isolating in their own homes, but OBI is giving them the option of moving into company housing during isolation if they would like.

    After the first positive test, OBI Seafoods closed its Seward processing plant to give it a deep cleaning and disinfection, but it was not immediately clear how the outbreak will affect fish-buying and processing there.