Sixteen workers at Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay oilfields are isolated or in quarantine after five tested positive for the coronavirus, health officials say.
The original five North Slope cases were reported last week — three nonresidents and two Alaskans, Alaska Department of Health and Social Services spokesman Clinton Bennett said in an email responding to a Daily News request.
The five were interviewed by medical staff associated with the Prudhoe Bay operation, Bennett said.
Eleven more people considered close contacts of the five are in quarantine, he said. All 16 are being monitored by medical staff.
The outbreak marks the first publicly announced COVID-19 cases at Prudhoe since a worker tested positive in March. Oil companies have taken extra steps to try to keep the virus out of remote camps in Arctic Alaska.
Hilcorp Energy operates the oilfield after it took over BP’s interest this summer.
Hilcorp spokesman Luke Miller emailed a statement on Thursday morning: “We are confident we have the right protocols in place to protect our workforce and the community. In addition to strict social distancing measures, we require masks in common areas and health monitoring for employees on and off shift. We have medical facilities with additional resources on standby if needed and we will continue to participate in a third-party pre-flight screening program.”
State health officials are aware of the positive cases but no extra assistance “is needed at this time,” Bennett said. “The provider/employers have detailed records on when employees arrive at their worksite. The providers have confirmed with DHSS that the cases were at the site during their infectious period and that there were no off site exposures.”
No additional cases have been reported in connection with the original five cases, he said.
A total of 26 North Slope Borough residents have tested positive since March, when the pandemic reached Alaska, according to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard. Five nonresidents at Prudhoe have tested positive.
[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.]