The more than 3,500 people on Princess Cruises’ Grand Princess remained in limbo Saturday morning as they awaited further information on when and where the cruise ship will dock, after 21 people aboard tested positive for coronavirus.
In California, state authorities were working with federal officials around-the-clock to bring the ship to a non-commercial port over the weekend and test everyone for the virus. There was no immediate word on where the vessel will dock.
Passengers on the ship said Friday night that the captain has notified them they are moving to a location 20 miles off the coast for easier delivery of supplies. The captain said a guest requires medical attention and may be airlifted out, the passengers said, the Associated Press and KCRA 3, a Sacramento based television station.
While health officials said about 1,100 crew members will remain aboard, passengers could be disembarked to face quarantine, possibly at U.S. military bases or other sites. That’s what happened to hundreds of passengers who were exposed to the virus on another Princess Cruises ship, the Diamond Princess, in January.
In his most recent comments about the ship, President Donald Trump, speaking Friday at the U.S. Centers for to Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, said he would prefer not to allow the passengers onto American soil but will defer to the recommendations of medical experts.
“I don’t need to have the numbers (of U.S. cases) double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault,” Trump said in a Fox News interview. “And it wasn’t the fault of the people on the ship either. OK? It wasn’t their fault either. And they are mostly American, so I can live either way with it.”
Speaking at the White House on Friday evening, Vice President Mike Pence said that 46 people aboard the ship, which was being held off the coast of California, had been tested for coronavirus. Of those, 24 were negative and one of the tests was inconclusive. Pence said that of the 21 who tested positive, 19 were crew members and two were passengers.
“Those that will need to be quarantined will be quarantined. Those who will require medical help will receive it,” Pence said. .
Princess Cruises said the ship is providing food and beverages via room service, offering free Internet and telephone service for passengers to stay in contact with families and working with the CDC to determine if additional precautionary measures are needed. The cruise line’s medical team also is collecting information from guests regarding prescription refill needs.
The company announced Wednesday those on board may have been exposed to coronavirus after sailing with 62 passengers who officials say had previously been on the ship’s Mexico voyage with a 71-year-old California man who eventually died from the virus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised guests stay in their rooms starting Thursday but had not declared a quarantine, according to a Thursday statement from Princess Cruises provided by spokesperson Alivia Owyoung Ender.
A Coast Guard helicopter lowered test kits onto the 951-foot Grand Princess by rope Thursday.
As of Saturday morning, coronavirus had infected more than 102,000 people globally and killed 3,491, according to Johns Hopkins data.
More cases related to Grand Princess continue to emerge
As passengers remained on the Grand Princess, more cases connected to the ship came to light.
The Associated Press reports that the ship “was the breeding ground for a deadly cluster of 10 cases during an earlier voyage.”
Carson City Health and Human Services in Nevada confirmed on Friday that it is also monitoring “a few” individuals in its jurisdiction who have ties to the Grand Princess cruise ship.
“In many respects, our ships are small floating cities. Just as life happens in cities for good and for bad, life also happens onboard our ships,” Princess Cruises’ president Jan Swartz said in a video posted to Twitter Friday morning.
This isn’t Princess Cruises’ first coronavirus cruise situation
Princess Cruises also owns the Diamond Princess, the ship that was quarantined in Yokohama, Japan, and experienced a coronavirus outbreak that infected nearly 700 passengers. Six have died.
“We learned a lot from our recent experience in Japan, and we are taking those lessons into account as we continue to support our fleet and our guests,” Swartz said in the video on Twitter.
On social media, the cruise line was busy replying to a myriad of tweets from concerned customers with upcoming cruises, assuring them their bookings could be canceled. Princess is allowing people who have a cruise booked through May 31, 2020, can make changes to their reservations.
Maryland residents tested positive after cruising on Egyptian ship
Meanwhile, three Maryland residents tested positive Thursday for the coronavirus after traveling on an Egyptian cruise on the Nile River, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said on Friday evening.
The married couple in their 70s and an unrelated woman in her 50s, all from Montgomery County, are the first patients to test positive for coronavirus in the state.
“This does appear to be the same cruise ship the World Health Organization (WHO) announced today has 12 workers who have been placed in quarantine for 14 days” after testing positive, said Hogan. “And our three Maryland cases appear to be linked to six confirmed coronavirus cases in Texas.”
On Thursday, Texas health departments announced positive coronavirus tests for several Harris County residents who had recently traveled abroad together.
A cruise ship on Egypt’s Nile River with over 150 tourists and local crew was in quarantine Saturday in the southern city of Luxor, after 12 people tested positive for the new coronavirus.
A Taiwanese-American tourist who had previously been on the same ship tested positive when she returned to Taiwan. The World Health Organization informed Egyptian authorities, who tested everyone currently on the ship.
Health authorities found a dozen of the ship’s Egyptian crew members had contracted the fast-spreading virus, but did not show symptoms, according to a statement Friday.
The statement said the 12 will be transferred to isolation in a hospital on Egypt’s north coast. The passengers — who include Americans, French and other nationalities — and the crew will remain quarantined on the ship awaiting further test results.
Egyptian authorities have been tight-lipped about the virus outbreak, previously reporting only three confirmed cases. That’s even as the wider Mideast now has over 6,000 confirmed cases.
Contributing: The Associated Press, Andrea Mandell, USA TODAY, Matthew Prensky, Salisbury Daily Times