A recent Skagway covid scandal — in which covid-positive cruise passengers were shipped home on a full ferry from Skagway to Juneau, and then boarded an Alaska Airlines flight — is unlikely to happen in Haines. However, there’s also not an official rule against it.

Earlier this month, KTOO reported the story of Diana and Larry Lehrer, would-be passengers on Holland America’s Koningsdam out of Skagway who were refused entry onto the ship because of positive covid tests. A day after they tested positive, they were aboard the packed LeConte – along with passengers from Haines.

Haines resident Clay Frick brought the story to the assembly’s attention at its Aug. 9 meeting, calling the cruise line’s conduct “egregious.” He asked Haines Borough Mayor Douglas Olerud to investigate Haines’s port agreements with cruise companies to ensure that something similar couldn’t happen here.

“Covid issues are handled by the state,” Olerud told the CVN. “It’s the state’s choice to let them onto the ferry.”

Even if Haines can’t affect protocol, however, route logistics make the scenario close to impossible here. The infected passengers in Skagway had attempted to board the ship for the first time in Skagway, after a bus tour through the Interior and Canada, which is why they had to test.

But that land-sea program is specific to Skagway, Haines tourism director Steven Auch said. Haines guests all board ships in the Lower 48 and test before initial boarding.

Rob Hudgins, who stopped in Haines on Aug. 16 as a passenger on the 3,600-capacity Royal Princess, said he was tested two days before he boarded in Whittier and then immediately before boarding, but no further testing was required.

And even if passengers had had to test midway through the journey, Royal Princess’s protocol mandates five days of hotel isolation after a positive result. (The three Princess ships docking in Haines this summer will account for the majority of passengers visiting town since each holds about 2,500 people, according to Auch’s estimate.)

Hudgins said he had never heard that it would be an option to go home after testing positive. Holland America had given the passengers in Skagway a choice between hotel isolation and tickets home, according to the Aug. 5 KTOO report.

But even after this incident, Skagway Mayor Andrew Cremata said he didn’t see a problem. “I suppose it’s possible it could happen (again) in the future. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with our Port Agreement. If it’s true that Holland America is putting people on an AMHS ferry, then that is between the State of Alaska DOT and Holland America. The same applies to other modes of transportation.”

Covid case counts on cruise ships have been climbing this summer with the advent of a new more infectious variant, the CVN reported last month. So there’s a possibility that some of the tourists streaming into Haines on big cruise ship days are covid-positive and don’t know it. But infected passengers will most likely leave on the ships they came in on.