A cruise ship that was held off the California coast for days after several passengers tested positive for coronavirus docked Monday in the port of Oakland.
The Grand Princess cruise ship will gradually unload its over 2,400 guests onboard to send them to facilities for further testing and treatment. Of around 45 people tested onboard last week, 21 people, largely crew members, tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
A 71-year-old man who was a passenger on a previous mid-February voyage on the boat died last week — the first confirmed COVID-19 death in the state of California.
The guests will be disembarked likely over several days in order of priority, with those in need of medical care unrelated to coronavirus disembarked first, per the state’s office of emergency services. Federal workers from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will be screening and triaging guests, starting with the over 900 California residents.
Passengers will be sent to facilities on land to be quarantined for 14 days for testing and potential treatment, with California residents to go to federally-operated facilities Travis Air Force Base or Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. The remaining guests will then be transported by the federal government to facilities in other states, largely to Texas and Georgia, said California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) in a press conference Sunday.
The ship’s crew, which includes over 1,100 people, will stay onboard and be quarantined on the ship, which will leave Oakland’s port once guests are no longer aboard. The crew’s testing and treatment plans are still to be determined, according to operating company Princess Cruises.
There were at least 19 people dead from COVID-19 across the U.S. as of Monday, with over 400 confirmed cases in at least 35 states, per the CDC.
Some passengers with unrelated health conditions were taken off the ship by helicopter by the U.S. Coast Guard over the weekend, per the Department of Homeland Security.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaff said in a press conference Sunday that it was the federal government’s decision to conduct the cruise ship’s disembarkation in Oakland and that assisting those onboard was the “right thing to do.”
“This is a community that has suffered decades of environmental racism and injustice,” the mayor acknowledged, adding that she’d received “very strong assurances” that the operation to disembark passengers would “employ the best isolation practices” possible.
Newsom added that Oakland’s port was chosen after considering sites across the state and that this location had a “number of advantages,” including proximity to an airport to repatriate foreign passengers, as well as to Travis Air Force Base, where Californian guests will be quarantined. San Francisco’s nearby port was deemed “not appropriate” due to the “logistics” of the site, including proximity to residences.
The cruise company said all guests would be refunded for the trip and receive credit to apply to any future cruise.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning older adults with underlying health conditions to avoid crowded places, including flights and “especially avoiding” cruise ships.