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Skagway, Alaska, to develop coronavirus protocols ahead of cruise ship season

More than a million cruise ship passengers are expected to visit Skagway, Alaska, this year, and the town is preparing should ships dock amid a novel coronavirus outbreak.

Mayor Andrew Cremata wants to prepare 'so that no matter what situation we encounter, we can handle it'

Cruise ship season in Skagway, Alaska, starts around early May. (Steve Silva/CBC)

More than one million cruise ship passengers are expected to visit Skagway, Alaska, this year, and the municipal government is preparing should ships dock amid a novel coronavirus outbreak either in town or on ship.

"Obviously, the specific situation and how it arises and what happens, we can't predict that," said Mayor Andrew Cremata.

"But what we can do [is] have protocols in place that are as comprehensive as possible so that no matter what situation we encounter, we can handle it."

The only road to Skagway passes through a small portion of British Columbia before reaching Carcross, Yukon, where many cruise ship passengers visit by bus.

Part of Skagway's preparations include finding out if staff members at the town's fire department, health centre, and police department are trained on how to respond to suspected cases of the COVID-19 virus. The goal is to ensure that anybody who may be infected gets proper medical treatment, while limiting the number of people they come in contact with, Cremata said.

Andrew Cremata is the mayor of Skagway, Alaska. (Submitted by Andrew Cremata)

He said he's been in contact with, among others, the Cruise Line Industry Association, Holland America Line, and the company that handles train tours along the White Pass & Yukon Route.

Cremata said he guesses that the U.S. federal government would have a significant role should an outbreak occur, but he wants his community to be prepared.

"Quite frankly, I think the odds of having a situation similar to what's happened in China, here are pretty slim," he said.

Cremata said he hopes to have a comprehensive plan in place for the community by mid-April, with a drill around the same time.

The first cruise ships of the year arrive in Skagway around early May, and the last around October.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the town's population was 1,148 last July. The town takes in thousands of visitors daily for part of the year.

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