The U.S. Coast Guard is airlifting coronavirus testing kits via helicopter to the Grand Princess cruise ship that’s being held off the coast of San Francisco due to concerns about the disease, the company said Wednesday.
Dozens of the 2,500 passengers on this Princess cruise had been on an earlier cruise with a man who died Wednesday of coronavirus, identified by public health officials as a 71-year-old from Placer County, California, with “underlying health issues.” His death was the first outside of Washington state, where there’s a cluster associated with a nursing home. The man was likely exposed during the February cruise, from San Francisco to Mexico, Placer County officials said. CDC officials are currently working to track down about 2400 other passengers throughout California who were on that cruise with the man, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said.
Princess Cruises said there were no confirmed cases onboard but at least 21 people on the ship have developed coronavirus-like symptoms, according to Newsom, and “fewer than 100 guests and crew” on this voyage — which was headed for call in Mexico before beginning a voyage to Hawaii — were identified for coronavirus testing, including the 62 people who were on the same previous trip to Mexico as the man who later died. Those identified for testing have been asked to remain in their rooms.
Princess Cruises has also canceled the voyage to Hawaii, which was set to begin March 7.
The ship — which is carrying over 2,500 passengers who were on a different voyage — is currently on its way back to California so federal health officials can screen the passengers, according to CNN. It’s unclear exactly when it’ll return. Following the tests, the samples will be sent to a lab in Richmond, California, for testing.
In addition to the affected cruise ship passengers, Placer County officials said that 10 Kaiser Permanente healthcare workers and five emergency responders who came into contact with the man before he was put in isolation have been placed in quarantine.
On Wednesday, Newsom declared a state of emergency and tweeted his condolences out to the dead man’s family, saying that the man’s death “demonstrates the need for continued local, state, and federal partnership to identify and slow the spread of this virus.”
This is the second time in as many months that a Princess cruise ship has been embroiled in a coronavirus-related crisis. In February, the Diamond Princess cruise ship was held in the Port of Yokohama in Japan as its 3,800-plus passengers and crew were quarantined for weeks and hundreds of people fell ill. To date, this remains the largest cluster of coronavirus outside of China.
Cover: In this Feb. 11, 2020 photo, the Grand Princess cruise ship passes the Golden Gate Bridge as it arrives from Hawaii in San Francisco. (Scott Strazzante/San Francisco Chronicle via AP)