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BP considers flying oil workers from Lower 48 directly to North Slope to limit COVID-19 spread

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The operator of the Prudhoe Bay oil field in northern Alaska is considering flying its Lower 48 workers directly to the site, bypassing Anchorage and providing an additional step to slow the continued spread of COVID-19 in Alaska.

BP Alaska will also conduct health and temperature checks to screen Lower 48 workers for the virus before they board flights to Prudhoe Bay, said Megan Baldino, a spokeswoman with BP.

The checks are also continuing in Anchorage, where most workers have traditionally boarded oil company-chartered flights to the fields.

“No one gets on a flight to Prudhoe Bay before they’re screened,” Baldino said.

“The health and well-being of our employees, contractors is our highest priority,” she said.

BP this week began asking Prudhoe Bay workers to complete three-week shifts or longer, an extension from two weeks, to limit the number of employees transferring in and out, Baldino said.

All BP workers are required to self-quarantine at home for 14 days, whether they live in Alaska or anywhere else, before returning to the North Slope.

Other oil and mining companies in Alaska have taken unusual steps to keep the fast-spreading and potentially deadly virus out of remote camps. Teck this week announced it is restricting flights to protect villages near its Red Dog Mine. Last week, ConocoPhillips temporarily canceled flights to its North Slope oil fields.

About one in five Alaska workers commute to the state, many of those in the mining and oil sectors, according to a 2018 state report. About 39% of BP’s Prudhoe Bay workforce of about 1,000 employees live out of state, Baldino said.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy has implemented travel restrictions that start Wednesday at 12:01 a.m., which will require people coming to Alaska to self-quarantine for 14 days before heading to work.

However, many oil company workers are exempt. The mandate doesn’t apply to people who support “critical infrastructure," and that includes oil production.

The order from the governor requires companies with critical operations and employees who travel to Alaska to submit a plan for preventing the spread of COVID-19. BP will submit its plan to the governor Tuesday, Baldino said.

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