This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S. (NIAID-RML via AP)

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S. (NIAID-RML via AP)

19 employees at mine near Juneau test positive for coronavirus

News came Wednesday evening.

Nineteen employees at Coeur Alaska’s Kensington Mine have tested positive for COVID-19, City and Borough of Juneau announced Wednesday evening.

State of Alaska Public Health officials are in the process of identifying close contacts and will quarantine additional individuals as needed, the city said in a news release. The mine, located approximately 45 miles north of Juneau, has about 386 employees, with about 250 workers at the site at any one time.

Coeur Alaska is working closely with the City and Borough of Juneau Emergency Operations Center, Public Health and the State of Alaska Emergency Operations Center, according to the city.

“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,” CBJ Emergency Operations Center Incident Commander Mila Cosgrove said in a news release.

Over the weekend, three employees started exhibiting signs of illness, according to the city. They were immediately isolated on the worksite and subsequently transported to the company’s quarantine and isolation facility in Juneau, and tested for COVID-19. They received positive test results on Monday, Aug. 10. Contact tracing identified 12 close contacts, who were also brought to Juneau to quarantine. They’re being provided with food and other needs, and security is in place to ensure quarantine rules are followed.

Upon getting the initial positive results, the company initiated site-wide COVID-19 testing on all workers who were at the mine site during the relevant time period — approximately 116 employees were tested on Monday, the remaining 94 tested Wednesday, according to the city. Results from the initial round of tests came back yesterday and today, and 16 additional employees have tested positive.

Results from the remaining 94 tests are pending, according to the city.

Public Health is currently conducting contact tracing of the 16 positive cases, according to the city. The source case of this outbreak is still being determined. All employees who have tested positive and their close contacts have been transported to the company’s quarantine and isolation facility in Juneau. All other employees will remain at the mine site until the remaining site-wide test results have been received.

Since March, the company has been following a State of Alaska approved COVID-19 mitigation plan. Prior to each work rotation, all workers are required to quarantine and be tested for COVID-19. 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.

More cases announced

The mine-connected cases are among 27 new cases reported for Juneau between Aug. 11 and 12, according to the city.

Of those cases, nine are residents and 18 are nonresidents.

Cumulatively, Juneau has had 118 residents test positive for COVID-19 since March. Of those, 28 cases are active and 89 have recovered. The total number of nonresident cases in Juneau is 94. Of those, 23 are active and 71 have recovered. All individuals with active cases of COVID-19 are in isolation. Two cases previously identified as residents have been corrected to nonresident cases.

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