A group of employees at a Southeast Alaska mine have tested positive for COVID-19, according to a release from the City and Borough of Juneau on Wednesday evening.
Nineteen employees and their close contacts at the Coeur Alaska Kensington Mine were transported 45 miles south to Juneau in order to quarantine and isolate, Lisa Phu, information officer for the city and borough, said in the release.
“Coeur Alaska has responded quickly to this situation and is being proactive in containing the outbreak. Risk to the community is minimal given the geographic isolation at the camp,” the borough’s emergency operations center incident commander, Mila Cosgrove, said in the release.
The company started testing all workers at the mine after three employees tested positive on Monday. Around 210 workers were tested on Monday and Wednesday, which includes 94 tests that are still pending.
[Follow-up testing finds no new cases of COVID-19 from Alaska cruise ship]
Sixteen more employees tested positive between Tuesday and Wednesday, the release said, and public health workers are still contact tracing the new cases.
The outbreak’s source case is still under investigation, the release said.
Four employees are currently symptomatic, according to Jan Trigg, manager of external affairs at Coeur Alaska. The 19 cases are the first COVID-19 cases at the mine, which has been in production since July 2010, she said.
[Anchorage Pioneer Home reports an additional 8 new COVID-19 cases among staff and residents]
The three employees who initially tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday started showing symptoms over the weekend, the borough’s release said. They were isolated and then taken to Coeur Alaska’s quarantine and isolation facility in Juneau, along with an additional 12 close contacts of the positive cases.
“They’re being provided with food and other needs, and security is in place to ensure quarantine rules are followed,” the release said.
The additional 16 employees who tested positive, along with their close contacts, were taken to the quarantine and isolation site in Juneau, as well.
The rest of the mine’s employees will stay at the site until all test results come back, the release said.
The mining company has been following a COVID-19 mitigation plan approved by the state since March, the release said.
The mine has around 386 employees and 250 workers there at a given time.
“Prior to each work rotation, all workers are required to quarantine and be tested for COVID-19,” the release said. “A negative test and completion of a health assessment that ensures each worker is symptom-free is required prior to going to the mine site.”
Trigg on Wednesday evening said she could not immediately respond to a question regarding how production at the mine was affected by the recent positive cases.
“We are currently focused on the health and safety of our workforce,” she said.
[Because of a high volume of comments requiring moderation, we are temporarily disabling comments on many of our articles so editors can focus on the coronavirus crisis and other coverage. We invite you to write a letter to the editor or reach out directly if you’d like to communicate with us about a particular article. Thanks.]