Cordova introduces plan to keep COVID-19 at bay

Fishermen quarantining on their vessels must fly the “Yellow Jack” flag

“We have an airport plan, a harbor plan, website information and lots of volunteers,” said Cordova Mayor Clay Koplin. “We don’t want to harass people, but we want to have the tools in place to keep the community safe.”

With the opener of the Copper River commercial salmon fishery now less than a month away, city officials are battening down the hatches, with restrictions for all, including residents and incoming seafood workers, aimed at keeping Cordova pandemic free.

The city has laid out online at mandates for residents and all visitors alike. Effective Thursday, April 23, face coverings became mandatory at the airport, harbor and all other places of business, in fact, anywhere where six feet of distancing is unlikely to work.

Through April 21, nobody in Cordova has tested positive for the virus. Statewide 329 people have tested positive, with 168 patients now recovered. Thirty-six others have been hospitalized and nine individuals have succumbed to the virus, state officials said.

“We have an airport plan, a harbor plan, website information and lots of volunteers,” Mayor Clay Koplin said Tuesday, April 21, as the city unveiled the new website. “We don’t want to harass people, but we want to have the tools in place to keep the community safe.”

The city has made mandatory that everyone coming to Cordova, including residents returning from anywhere, quarantine for 14 days upon arrival, limiting themselves to the confines of their residence, period.

Fishermen and others traveling to Cordova on business must notify the harbormaster if traveling by boat and immediately begin their 14-day quarantine. They must also complete a vessel/business assessment form for all employees, file a mutual aid agreement to the city within 72 hours of arrival and educate themselves of the city’s temporary COVID-19 rules, which are in effect through the end of April.


Fishermen who choose to take their 14-day quarantine on their vessels will be required to fly a “Yellow Jack”, a simple yellow flag that has been used historically to signal quarantine. The city has already ordered the flags, Koplin said.

The entire harbor is now considered a “hot zone,” meaning that everyone should assume anyone on the dock might be a carrier of the COVID-19 virus and take appropriate precautions: social distancing of at least 6 feet, frequent handwashing and wearing a mask. Prominent COVID-19 signage is being posted throughout the harbor, and those without business on the docks are being discouraged from entering.

Information packets will be handed out to all vessel operators and placed in weatherproof stations at the harbor for pickup. To ensure compliance, all vessels will be required to maintain a logbook detailing vessel travel, which may be spot checked by harbor personnel.

Hand cleaning stations are being installed at the top of every ramp to encourage hand washing.

Those engaged in net and gear mending on the docks must wear masks and maintain appropriate social distancing. Harbormaster showers and bathrooms will remain open, but subject to more frequent cleaning, with disinfectant spray bottles available to spray surfaces before and after each use. In addition, harbor staff will close the bathrooms for an hour daily to use an ozone generator for complete disinfecting.

The ramp, crane, docks, grid and travel lift will be open as usual for use by the fleet. Scheduling may be required, and cleaning supplies will be on hand for high-touch areas, according to instructions on the website.

The whole idea, said Koplin, is that by following the mandates for masking, frequent hand washing, wiping frequently touched surfaces and social distancing, that somebody can’t infect someone else in public places.

“The clock is ticking, but we are putting new safeguards in place every day to protect the citizens and the fishing fleet.”

City manager Helen Howarth laid out the highlights of the online city plan during a news conference on Tuesday, April 21, where she announced the new website. The good news is residents are taking care of each other and supporting local businesses, Howarth said.

“We may not be able to work as fast as people would like, but we are working as hard as we can,” she said. “The health and safety of residents is our top priority.”

Anyone feeling overwhelmed with anxiety or depression by the restrictions imposed because of the pandemic is encourage to one of several entities whose phone numbers are listed, including Ilanka Community Health Center, Cordova Family Resource Center and the Substance Abuse and Mental health Services Administrations Disaster Distress Hotline to the Domestic Violence Hotline.