It is believed four Australians are onboard the Grand Princess where 21 people have been confirmed to have coronavirus.
Vice President of the United States of America said federal officials had been working with the state of California and “we have developed a plan to bring the ship to a non-commercial port,” he said.
“All passengers and crew will be tested for the virus. Those that will need to be quarantined will be quarantined. Those who will require medical help will receive it.”
Princess Cruises announced over the weekend that it had been informed by state and local officials that the ship would be able to dock in the Port of Oakland on Monday.
Californian residents, who make up 962 of the passengers, will be given priority to leave the ship. They will be quarantined at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California, and Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego.
Other U.S. citizens will be transported either to Joint Base San Antonio Lackland in Texas or Dobbins Air Force Base in Georgia. Passengers from other countries will be flown out of the U.S. on charter flights.
Governor of California, Gavin Newsom said the decision to dock in Oakland was partly because of its proximity to the airport, allowing non-American passengers to get back to their home countries quickly without contact with the American population.
It’s believed that crew members who are not in need of immediate medical attention will be quarantined on the Grand Princess. And after passengers disembark, the ship will depart Oakland. It is unknown where she will go afterwards.
Princess Cruises said 46 of the more than 3,500 passengers and crew members onboard were tested in the first round when a military helicopter lowered kits to the ship.
Of the 46 tested, 21 tested positive for the infection, 24 negative and one was inconclusive. And of the 21 tested positive, 19 of those were crew members of the ship and two were passengers.
Princess Cruises said in a statement: “Princess Cruises can confirm that the results from the first phase of health screenings of 45 guests and crew onboard Grand Princess were completed.
“We were notified by Vice President Pence while he was conducting a press conference and simultaneously by the U.S. Centers of Disease Control (CDC) speaking to our shipboard doctor that among the samples tested, 21 people have tested positive for COVID-19 which includes two (2) guests and 19 crew.
“The ship’s doctor is in the process of informing the guests and crew of their individual results. All guests and affected crew will remain isolated in their rooms.
“We are awaiting official specific plans for future positioning of the ship from relevant authorities. Princess Cruises will continue to closely follow the guidance of the CDC and other federal and state government authorities.
“We are working with CDC to determine what additional precautionary measures, if any, will be required.
“Princess Cruises medical team is collecting information from guests regarding any medication prescription refills needs.
“Princess Cruises can confirm there are 3,533 people currently onboard Grand Princess, including 2,422 guests and 1,111 teammates. In total, they represent 54 nationalities.”
The ship, which was denied entry to Hawaii earlier this week, was re-routed back to the California coast after it was reported a 71-year-old passenger, who was on a previous sailing, died.
Associates Press reports health authorities disclosed that at least six other people who were the same shore excursion are also found to have been infected.
The office of the Mayor of San Francisco said in a statement Thursday that the state and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are determining a location that “can most appropriately address the health of those passengers that may have COVID-19 and the safety of those passengers not impacted, as well as the surrounding community.”
A passenger onboard the Grand Princess, Shellie Erickson Chapman posted photos on Facebook showing the CDC helicopter hovering above the ship.
She also said on Facebook: “Princess is confining us to our rooms after lunch.”
Guests onboard will receive all meals by room service, and the line has added extra TV and movies to the program. Passengers have also been given complimentary internet service.
But the mood onboard has not dampened. Greg and Susan White from Colorado told USA Today that they weren’t surprised that they had to be confined to their rooms. And before they were directed to stay in their staterooms, there was a lot of “gallows humour.”
“Personally, this did not surprise me because I was on business travel some 2,000 miles from home on Sept. 11 and saw pretty much the same thing,” Mr White said in an email to the Coloradoan, which is part of the USA TODAY network.
“Virtually everyone cooperated fully, resigned to the fact that there wasn’t really anything they could do about it.”
State officials are partnering with the CDC and the American Coast Guard to get the tests to the ship and back to land to be assessed.
“The ship will not come on shore until we appropriately assess the passengers,” he said.
The governor also said that the tests will be conducted at a San Francisco Bay laboratory and results could be ready in just hours.
A letter has been posted on Princess Cruises website, informing guests onboard the ship what is going on.
“For those guests who sailed with us on our previous voyage and may have been exposed, in an abundance of caution, the CDC requires you to remain in your stateroom until you have been contacted and cleared by our medical staff,” the passengers were informed in the letter.
“A member of our medical team will be calling you between the hours of 8:00 AM and 11:00 AM this morning. You may order room service while you wait for the medical screening to be completed.”
Princess Cruises said in a statement, that the line had been contacted by the CDC which are investigating a small cluster of coronavirus cases in Northern California. Among those, it is believed that some guests had sailed on a Mexican round trip voyage from San Francisco from February 11 to February 12.
“All guests on the previous voyage were sent a communication from Princess Cruises with an information card from the CDC. A total of 62 guests are in-transit, which means they sailed the previous Mexico voyage and remained onboard for the current Hawaii voyage. 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.
“The safety, health and well-being of our guests and crew is always our top priority. The ship has activated these proactive and precautionary measures out of an abundance of caution:
· All guests on the current voyage have received a communication from Princess Cruises with notification about the presumptive positive cases with a travel history linked to Grand Princess.
· Guests will be asked to monitor their personal health and well-being and if they become symptomatic, they are asked to report to the medical centre for an evaluation and care from the ship’s medical professionals (at no charge).
· Since it is cold and flu season, anyone experiencing symptoms will be isolated in their cabin for a period of 48 hours or until the ship returns to San Francisco.
· Hotel and Housekeeping Operations will elevate cleaning and sanitation protocols and activate precautionary service measures. Examples include the crew providing buffet service (no guest use of service utensils) and rigorous cleaning and disinfecting of major traffic areas.
“We are saddened to learn of the announcement made by Placer County Public Health that a 71-year-old male guest who had sailed on the previous voyage has died. All of us at Princess Cruises offer our sincerest and heartfelt condolences to the family and all who are impacted by this loss.”
The news comes as James Kwan, a 78-year-old retired businessman and former passenger of the Diamond Princess, was the first Australian who died in Western Australia after he was infected with the virus.