Health officials in the Bay Area yesterday conducted tests on about 3,500 passengers aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship to determine if any of them have contracted the novel coronavirus. The ship was scheduled to dock in San Francisco on Thursday but was prevented from doing so after one 71-year-old man, who had been on board the Grand Princess on a previous trip, died from the virus.
“That ship is currently being delayed to provide ample opportunity for the CDC in partnership with the Coast Guard and with state health officials to conduct tests, because we have a number of passengers and crew members that have developed symptoms on this cruise,” said Governor Gavin Newsom of California said in a statement on Wednesday.
Newsom also claimed that the state was declaring a state of emergency as an aggressive response to the novel coronavirus outbreak, which rose to about 54 cases in California alone – the highest in the country.
San Francisco city officials claim that the cruise ship is carrying a total of 2,383 guests and 1,100 crew members. The ship’s voyage from Hawaii to California was cut short after several guests and crew started exhibiting symptoms of the coronavirus. The ship will remain under quarantine just off the coast of San Francisco until the results are released.
Officials believe that an older adult who was on the ship’s previous trip to and from Mexico harbored the virus. The same man, discovered to be from Placer County near Sacramento, was considered to be the first documented coronavirus fatality in California, according to a report by Reuters. Health officials claim that the individual likely contracted the virus while on the cruise ship, and they are trying to contact the 2,500 passengers who disembarked the Grand Princess in San Francisco on February 21, immediately after the earlier cruise to Mexico.
According to Mary Ellen Carrol, the head of the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management, about 35 people have shown flu-like symptoms during the 15-day cruise. However, many of them have already recovered from their symptoms.
“Testing protocols are being put into place on the ship for those passengers and crew that have shown flu-like symptoms or may have been exposed to the virus, and that is happening today,” Carrol added. “Once we have results from the tests, the CDC and the state will determine the most appropriate location for the ship to berth, and the location needs to provide for the safety of the surrounding community as well as the passengers and crew.”
The Grand Princess is a cruise ship belonging to Princess Cruises, the same company which operated the Diamond Princess – a similar cruise ship that was quarantined off the coast of Japan just last month. More than 700 people tested positive with the virus, six of which succumbed to illness. The company has already canceled its next scheduled departure of the Grand Princess bound for Hawaii, which was set to depart on March 7. (Related: “High-risk” Diamond Princess cruise ship passengers sent to NEBRASKA for quarantine – what could possibly go wrong?)
The company recently released a statement saying fewer than a hundred people on board will be tested for the virus — mostly guests who were present during the previous Mexico voyage and remained on the ship for the Hawaii trip.
“In an abundance of caution, these guests and other potential close crew contacts have been asked to remain in their staterooms until screened by our onboard medical team,” it said.
As of writing, Princess Cruises claims that there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 onboard the ship. However, test samples have already been delivered to the California Department of Public Health in Richmond for analysis. According to the statement, the results of the tests are expected to come out within the week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that there are a total of 99 cases of coronavirus infection across 13 states in the United States.
Learn more about the coronavirus outbreak taking the world by storm at Pandemic.news.