Moorestown couple stuck on cruise ship where 21 have COVID-19
A Moorestown couple is among the 3,500 passengers who have been stuck on Grand Princess, the ship that had been circling off the California coast with at least 21 people infected with COVID-19.
The Grand Princess, carrying more than 3,500 people from 54 countries, was expected to dock Monday in Oakland, in the east San Francisco Bay, and was idling off the coast Sunday as officials prepared a port site. Those needing acute medical care were set to come off first.
The ship was turned away from San Francisco upon its return from Hawaii last week, after being linked to previous cases. In the time since, 19 passengers and 2 crew members have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
Passengers of the ship were set to be shipped by bus Monday to military bases in California, Texas and Georgia, where they'll be tested for COVID-19 and quarantined.
Harry and Karen Dever told 6 ABC Action News the ship was supposed to go to Mexico but instead headed back to California. The duo was confined to their quarters on Thursday and were allowed back on their cabin's balcony on Friday, Karen Dever told 6 ABC Action News.
She said the ship crew is telling them "absolutely nothing" about why they couldn't dock.
"We found out there were some positive results by watching the news station," Karen Dever told the NEws station.
Karen Dever told 6 ABC Action News she is not scared to cruise again but is more frustrated by the lack of information from the crew.
Friend Linda M. Poole posted on her Facebook page that she is a friend of Karen Dever's and they have played games on line. Poole said Karen Dever told her food is delivered to their cabin daily along with arts and crafts supplies.
Poole wrote that she and Karen Dever are quilters, and she has been working on a quilting project. Poole said she has nicknamed her friend the "quarantined quilter."
Once the passengers disembark the ship will leave Oakland to dock elsewhere, according to California Gov. Gavin Newsome.
The Grand Princess is one of three Princess Cruises that have seen their returns delayed due to coronoavirus-related concerns.
The Caribbean Princess, on a 10-day trip to the Panama Canal, was scheduled to dock in Grand Cayman on Monday. But the Çalifornia-based cruise line said it will keep passengers and crew from disembarking, and instead will pick up test kits after notifying the CDC that two crew members had transferred from a Princess ship in California where a guest had tested positive for COVID-19.
That ship's crew members being tested are currently "asymptomatic" and are remaining alone in their rooms “out of an abundance of caution" as the ship returns to Fort Lauderdale, the company statement said.
The ship is under a “no sail order” from the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which will require it to remain at anchor off the coast of Florida until further notice, the statement said. It was originally scheduled to return to Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday.
The Regal Princess underwent a similar process, spending most of a day sailing up and down the Florida coast, before finally pulling into Port Everglades late Sunday. Its passengers finally disembarked after two crew members tested negative for the coronavirus. Those crew members also lacked symptoms, but had come from the Grand Princess.
Also Sunday, the U.S. State Department advised against travel on cruise ships, particularly for travelers with underlying health conditions. The advisory said the CDC has noted an “increased risk of infection of COVID-19 in a cruise ship environment.”
It is unclear how many people have been on board the Florida-based ships. The cruise line said the Regal Princess has a capacity of 3,560 guests and the Caribbean Princess can carry more than 3,600 guests.
Passengers began disembarking shortly after the Regal Princess pulled into port, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported. Penny Sitz, of Minnesota, said the crew was “fantastic,” constantly cleaning and “making us wash our hands all the time.”
The Regal Princess had been scheduled to return to sea on a seven-day Caribbean trip on Sunday, but that voyage was canceled. The cruise line said guests would receive a full refund and offered $300 reimbursement for one night's hotel costs.
The cruise line hasn't announced plans for the next Caribbean Princess voyage. A cruise on the same ship was cut short last month after a gastrointestinal outbreak sickened at least 299 passengers and 22 crew members.
Meanwhile, on dry land, two people with COVID-19 died in Florida, the first deaths on the U.S. East Coast attributed to the outbreak. A spokeswoman for Gov. Ron DeSantis tweeted that both were in their 70s and had traveled overseas.
DeSantis later met with Vice President Mike Pence, Florida's senators and cruise line industry leaders on Saturday to discuss better responses to the outbreak.
The industry was asked to devise and fund ways of transport any passengers found to carry the virus. Cruise line heads agreed to enhance entry and exit screenings and establish shipboard testing, along with new quarantine standards established by the CDC. Some of the new protocols were expected to start taking effect early this week.
The cruise lines must “make sure they are keeping their passengers safe and do not end up putting undo burden on federal resources," DeSantis said.
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