Seward sees new coronavirus outbreak

Jun 29, 2020

This November 2018 photo looks down on Seward and Resurrection Bay from the race point on Mount Marathon.
Credit Elizabeth Earl

A new outbreak of COVID-19 cases in Seward has the community on edge and events cancelled.

Since last week, about a dozen people have tested positive for the coronavirus in Seward. The first signs appeared Thursday when two people were reported to have tested positive and the Department of Health and Social Services notified the public that patrons at two area bars might have been exposed. Anyone who visited the Seward Alehouse on June 21 from noon to seven, June 22 from 9 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., and June 23 from noon to 7 or 9 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. or who visited the Yukon Bar on June 23 was asked to be tested.

Seward Community Health Center offered drive-through testing on Saturday, asking anyone with symptoms or who thought they might have been exposed to come and be tested. They tested 113 people on Saturday, says Executive Director Craig Ambrosiani. The clinic is open for testing from 10-noon and after 1 p.m. until July 2. Ambrosiani says he is expecting more positives with the large number of people being tested Monday as well.

"The ten positives we got were primarily from last Thursday," he said. "Then with the 113 people showing up in our testing site and there’s another testing site in town that had a similar number show up, and today we’re probably going to surpass that. We have a number of people here for testing today. So yeah, we are very concerned that we do have a significant outbreak."

Businesses in the Seward area have reacted to the news in various ways, but some of them are closing doors or scaling back. The Seward Alehouse posted on its Facebook that it will be closed for the Fourth of July weekend, will not host any live music events in the future, will take temperatures at the door and will mask employees. The Yukon Bar also announced a closure effective June 25, pending testing all its employees.

Fourth of July is usually a big deal in Seward, with the annual parade and the Mount Marathon race as the crowning jewel. Mount Marathon had already been cancelled for 2020, but the Seward Chamber of Commerce had been planning to host a smaller event for the Fourth, including vendors on some streets and fireworks at midnight. On Monday, the chamber announced the cancellation of all those events in response to the positive COVID-19 tests.

In a newsletter issued Monday, the chamber thanked all the vendors and the public who had reached out with concerns. The Fourth of July is a three-day weekend this year, with the Fourth on Saturday.

Ambrosiani says he is concerned about the outbreak in the community and urged people to wear masks in public and stay socially distant.

"We really need to just basically hunker down and let this wave pass," he said.

Cases have been rising in Alaska for the past few weeks as businesses reopen and more people get out into the summer. If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 in connection with the Seward cases, the Seward Community Health Center, Glacier Family Medicine, and Providence Seward are offering tests. If you are showing symptoms, isolate yourself and call ahead to be tested, and isolate yourself until the test results come back.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at eearl@kdll.org.