Cruise Ship Held off San Francisco, Pending Coronavirus Testing of Passengers, Crew

Sampling kits intended for testing for coronavirus are being flown onto a cruise ship that is being held off San Francisco, California, with thousands of people on board as some of the ship’s crew and passengers developed symptoms linked to the outbreak.

Specifically, a cluster of individuals has been identified for testing after a Northern California man in his 70ies died from the illness upon his return from a San Francisco-to-Mexico cruise on Grand Princess from 11-21 of February.

The deceased individual was among many others who disembarked the ship.

“By one estimate, about 50 percent of the passengers, which total in roughly 2500, not including the crew, are Californians,” Governor of California Gavin Newsom said yesterday commenting on the situation.

The governor added that activities were underway to contact the said individuals and that the authorities are in possession of the manifest of passengers from the cruise. These include residents of California, the US and other parts of the world.

Some of these passengers remained on board and departed for the ship’s next destination, which was Hawaii.

Princess Cruises, operator of the ship, said on Wednesday, that it was notified by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of an investigation into a ‘small cluster of COVID-19 cases in Northern California connected to the previous Grand Princess voyage.’ 

“There are fewer than 100 guests and crew identified for testing, including all in-transit guests (guests who sailed the previous Mexico voyage and remained on board for the current Hawaii voyage), those guests and crew who have experienced influenza-like illness symptoms on this voyage, and guests currently under care for respiratory illness,” Princess Cruises said.

The ship headed back to San Francisco and canceled its call to Ensenada which was scheduled for Thursday, March 5, in order to sail directly to San Francisco.

“To facilitate this testing, the U.S. Coast Guard will deliver sampling kits to the ship the morning of March 5 via helicopter. Our onboard medical team will administer the test and the samples will be sent in batches by helicopter to a lab in Richmond, California, across the bay from San Francisco,” the cruise line said.

“Public health officials have advised that no guests will be permitted to disembark until all results have been received. “

Until the testing is completed, the affected passengers were advised to stay in their staterooms.

Princess Cruises added that as a result, it would cancel the Grand Princess Hawaii cruise departing on March 7. All guests will receive a full refund of their cruise fare.

Under such circumstances, the state of California has declared a state of emergency.

“The State of California is deploying every level of government to help identify cases and slow the spread of this coronavirus,” said Newsom.

“This emergency proclamation will help the state further prepare our communities and our health care system in the event it spreads more broadly.”

The proclamation builds on work already underway by the California Department of Public Health, California Health and Human Services Agency, Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and other agencies that have been on the front lines of the state’s response to COVID-19 since January. California has reported 53 confirmed cases of COVID-19 so far.

Grand Princess is the second cruise ship operated by Princess Cruises to have been embroiled into a coronavirus outbreak development. To remind, Diamond Princess was quarantined in Japan last month over the outbreak, with the Japanese health ministry reporting over 690 infections and four deaths.

World Maritime News Staff

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