Grand Princess passengers prepare to disembark, quarantine; ‘Don’t get on a cruise,’ health official advises

2020-03-08 15:25:51

Grand Princess cruise ship passengers will begin disembarking Monday after 21 people aboard tested positive for coronavirus on Friday. 

After passengers disembark, they will begin a 14-day quarantine, during which officials will continue monitoring them for coronavirus symptoms, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced in a news release Sunday.

Princess Cruises announced early Sunday it had been informed by state and local officials that the cruise, off the coast of California, would be able to dock in the Port of Oakland on Monday, though an exact time was not available, cruise line public relations director Negin Kamali told USA TODAY. 

Guests who “require acute medical treatment and hospitalization” will be first to disembark. Kamali said it was “unclear” if other passengers would also be allowed off the ship Monday, or if they would have to wait further. 

“California residents will go to a federally operated facility within California for testing and isolation, while non-Californians will be transported by the federal government to facilities in other states,” read a statement provided by Kamali. “Crew will be quarantined and treated aboard the ship.”

California residents, of which there are nearly 1,000, will be quarantined at Travis Air Force Base and Miramar Naval Air Station. Residents of other states will head to either Joint Base San Antonio Lackland in Texas or Dobbins Air Force Base in Georgia.

“The Department of State is working closely with the home countries of several hundred passengers to arrange for repatriation to their countries,” HHS added. 

More: Grand Princess cruise ship hit by coronavirus will dock Monday in California

Regal Princess held offshore, awaiting test results for two crew members

Another ship owned by the Princess Cruises line, the Regal Princess, was being held off the coast of Florida Sunday as the ship waits for test results on whether two crew members have contracted the new coronavirus.

The ship was supposed to dock in Port Everglades on Sunday morning but was instead sailing up and down the coast, the Miami Herald and Miami ABC affiliate WPLG-TV reported. The crew members in question had transferred from the Grand Princess cruise ship in California where 21 people aboard tested positive for the virus Friday, including 19 crew members.

USA TODAY has reached out to Princess Cruises for more information. 

It is unclear how many people are on board, but it has a capacity of 3,560 guests, according to the cruise line’s website. The Regal Princess’ next cruise scheduled to leave Port Everglades for a seven-day Caribbean trip was also canceled.

Health official’s advice: No crowds, no long trips, no cruise ships

Avoiding cruise ships is a major way to protect those vulnerable to coronavirus, according to an expert. 

Speaking Sunday morning on “Meet the Press,” immunologist Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, outlined what Americans at home can do to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, which has infected at least 476 people in the U.S. and killed 19 as of Sunday afternoon. 

Dangers are “overwhelmingly weighted toward people with underlying conditions and the elderly,” Fauci said. “If you’re an elderly person with an underlying condition, if you get infected, the risk of getting into trouble is considerable.

He added: “So it’s our responsibility to protect the vulnerable. When I say ‘protect,’ I mean right now. Not ‘wait until things get worse.’ Say no crowds, no long trips and above all, don’t get on a cruise ship.”

Fauci said he “strongly” agrees with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation that those who are elderly and/or have underlying conditions “think twice” about boarding airplanes, trains and other forms of public transportation. 

“And not only think twice, just don’t get on a cruise ship,” Fauci added. 

Sistine Chapel shuts down as Italy takes drastic containment measures

Already staggering under weeks of fears about the spread of the coronavirus, Italy’s tourism industry has now taken an even more punishing blow.

The Vatican announced Sunday that in coordination with drastic Italian government measures aimed at containing Italy’s virus outbreak, Europe’s worst, it is shutting down its museums, which include access to the Sistine Chapel, until April 3.

The chapel’s ceiling and altar wall, frescoed by Michelangelo, are one of the world’s biggest tourist attractions, and a high point of Vatican Museums visits.

The Sistine Chapel, among other Vatican museums, will shut down until April 3.
The Sistine Chapel, among other Vatican museums, will shut down until April 3.

The Vatican said its one case of coronavirus is that of a person who had come to the Holy See’s health facilities as part of a doctor’s visit ahead of being hired. Five people who had close contact with that person have been put in quarantine as a precaution

The Italian government’s decree also shut down outdoor sites like Pompeii’s extraordinary archaeological ruins and a blockbuster exhibit in Rome of more than 100 paintings and drawings by Raphael, which was mounted to mark the Renaissance artist’s 500th anniversary of his death from a fever in the city.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus: Grand Princess cruise prepares to disembark, quarantine

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