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Monday, April 06, 2020

When Did You Decide There Is No Way On Earth You Would Take A Cruise?

When did you first get the idea the coronavirus pandemic was really dangerous and not just some vague thing happening in some part of China you never heard of? By late January Japan, South Korea and Thailand were reporting confirmed cases and a man in his 30s returning to Seattle from a trip to Wuhan was the first U.S. case. On January 23 people who pay attention realized that China had shut down Wuhan and then all of Hubei Province. And then on January 5th we all heard about the Diamond Princess. After a two-week trip to Southeast Asia, more than 3,600 passengers were quarantined on the cruise ship in Yokohama harbor. There were 218 confirmed infections. By the time they started letting passengers off the ship-- February 19-- 621 people on board were infected. Then on February 21 and 23 we started hearing about outbreaks in Iran and Italy-- big ones.

At this point, careful people started wearing masks and started cancelling trips. On March 13 Trump started backing down from his pervious stance that it was no big deal-- by declaring a national emergency. Even then, Trump supporters were still not taking it seriously. Passengers were still taking cruises. In fact, my sister could not be talked about her cruise (although eventually the company cancelled it, luckily for her). The week before Trump declared the national emergency, the Coral Princess, left San Antonio, Chile for a two week tour of South America. After the first week, people were getting sick and testing positive and the cruise turned into a desperate look for a harbor to let them dock. No country would.

Today the Washington Post published a report by Hannah Sampson about what happened once Port Miami let them anchor-- anchor, but not disembark. Obviously, there were sick and dying passengers and already dead passengers aboard. Everyone wanted off. But today "they remained on the ship at PortMiami-- running out of medication, without the luggage they handed over two days earlier and with no idea when they would be allowed to head home. Passengers worry their risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus grows the longer they stay on board."

Princess Cruises said Sunday new guidance issued overnight by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended passengers not travel on commercial flights or share transportation with non-cruise guests, which, the company said, would require an adjustment to its plan to let people off the ship.

“This will unfortunately result in further delays in disembarkation and onward travel for many guests as we work through this complex, challenging and unfortunate situation,” Princess said in a statement. “We express continued gratitude to our guests for their patience and understanding as we work to adapt to these new requirements.”

The ship arrived in Miami on Saturday with 1,020 guests on board after receiving approval for a plan to transport the five sickest passengers to hospitals, keep 65 with symptoms on board to recover and get the rest home.

Some passengers were able to leave Saturday and Sunday, including those with charter flights to California, Australia and the United Kingdom. Late Monday afternoon, the cruise line said 545 guests left Sunday and another 139 disembarked Monday morning, leaving 274 on board. More domestic charter flights were scheduled to depart Tuesday, Princess said.

Two people died on the ship as it approached Florida and 12 tested positive for the virus. A third passenger, San Francisco resident Wilson Maa died Saturday night at a hospital after waiting for hours to be taken off the ship as his family pleaded with authorities to help him.

According to the cruise ship’s original plan, “a portion” of travelers declared fit to travel would take commercial flights, based on their final destination. All of those passengers were going to be taken to Miami International Airport by private bus. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said in a news conference a “minority” of the passengers on the ship would be flying commercial.

The CDC had allowed passengers from other ships with confirmed coronavirus cases to take commercial flights home. Last month, passengers from the Costa Luminosa-- including some who got positive test results midflight-- took a charter flight from Europe to Atlanta. Some passengers from that flight then took commercial flights to get the rest of the way home.

On Sunday, a passenger who had transferred from Holland America Line’s Zaandam ship to the Rotterdam, both of which arrived last week in Port Everglades, Fla., after coronavirus spread on the Zaandam, told Fox News he took a commercial flight to New York after his charter flight to Atlanta.

“We went from people surrounding us with hazmat suits to mixing with the general population,” the passenger, New Jersey resident Rick De Pinho, told Fox.

The new guidance from the CDC says travelers who are well should “only travel with other well travelers by chartered or private transportation. Do not board a commercial flight or other public transportation.”

As rules for allowing well passengers to leave the ship evolved, the situation on Coral Princess became more harrowing for sick passengers over the weekend. After family members of Maa, the passenger who died in a hospital, pleaded for his rescue from the ship, they had to turn their attention to his wife, Toyling Maa, who was taken to a hospital after waiting for six hours, her daughter said on Twitter.

On Sunday, local medical workers boarded the ship to help the medical staffers on board. That day, 12 more patients were taken off the ship to hospitals, according to the county mayor’s office. During the evacuation, workers discovered “the ship’s oxygen supply was critically low,” according to a statement from the county, and Miami-Dade Fire Rescue replaced empty oxygen cylinders with full ones.