UnCruise’s first sailing was recalled to port on Tuesday after a passenger returned a positive coronavirus test. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

UnCruise’s first sailing was recalled to port on Tuesday after a passenger returned a positive coronavirus test. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

UnCruise guests quarantined, undergoing tests

UnCruise is paying for quarantine lodging, meals, and testing.

After a guest tested positive for the coronavirus, UnCruise canceled an Aug. 1 sailing, returning its guests to Juneau and quarantining them in a prearranged contingency, said the company’s CEO.

“We respond and do our best,” said CEO Dan Blanchard in a phone interview Thursday.

All 36 guests are quarantined while testing and contract tracing is ongoing, Blanchard said. UnCruise is paying for meals, lodging and security for the duration. As guests are tested and contacts are traced, they may be released from quarantine, but the cluster around the infected individual will likely be in for the long haul.

“All the evidence is showing that they did events together, they ate together, they were social distancing from other guests together,” Blanchard said. “Today (Thursday) will begin the full contact tracing needs to happen. If contact tracing shows a passenger was eating dinner and was within six feet of that group, they’ll have to get tested again.”

The COVID-19-positive tourist was notified on Tuesday, and immediately returned to Juneau.

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“This fellow, when he tested at the airport on Saturday morning, didn’t get word until Tuesday,” Blanchard said. “They contacted him. They were able to talk to him. The next step would have been to make contact with the company.”

The tests do not draw from Juneau’s stockpile of test kits, and were instead provided by UnCruise as part of their contingency with the City and Borough of Juneau. The tests are being analyzed in the Lower 48 by a private lab.

“The guest tests are being processed in the Lower 48 by Vault,” Blanchard said. “We’re basically gonna tell people 48-60 hours for results.”

UnCruise canceled all cruises for the rest of the season, Blanchard said, though that didn’t amount to many.

“Even beforehand, we had just five trips planned,” Blanchard. “We just had massive numbers of guests canceled.”

“There’s a certain risk in operating,” he added. “What really needs to happen in this experience is rapid testing. If there had been rapid testing, we would have known if he pulled a positive before he got on the boat.”

The Wilderness Adventurer will expedite its regular refits, which mandates a full service haul-out every other year. Blanchard said the ship will go into the yards for routine refit ahead of schedule.

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or lockett@juneauempire.com.

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