Grand Princess cruise passengers, crew await coronavirus test results: What we know

More than 3,500 people are stuck on board Princess Cruises’ Grand Princess off the coast of California as the ship awaits coronavirus test results. Medical personnel have tested 45 people – both guests and crew – according to an overnight statement from the cruise line. 

Officials ordered the ship to stay at bay until testing is concluded after a 71-year-old man died from coronavirus after sailing on the ship’s previous voyage. 

There are 2,422 guests and 1,111 crew representing 54 nationalities currently sailing on the Grand Princess for its Hawaii voyage, according to a release from the cruise line. 

Those on board the Grand Princess may have been exposed to coronavirus after sailing with 62 passengers who company officials say had previously been on the ship’s Mexico voyage with a man who eventually died from the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised guests stay in their rooms for the remainder of a cruise but had not declared a quarantine, according to a Thursday statement from Princess Cruises provided by spokeswoman Alivia Owyoung Ender. 

Two other passengers from that voyage have been hospitalized with the virus in Northern California, officials said. One of the other former passengers in California from the ship’s former voyage who tested positive for coronavirus is in “difficult condition,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday.

When will people on the cruise ship disembark and where? 

Public health officials have said that guests will not be allowed to disembark until test results are received, Princess Cruises said in a release. The cruise line stated results are expected by Friday. 

While the ship was meant to arrive to port in San Francisco, it is is unclear when and where the ship will be able to dock after testing is complete.

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.”

“The ship will not come on shore until we appropriately assess the passengers,” Newsom said.

How were the coronavirus tests administered? 

A military helicopter lowered test kits onto the 951-foot (290-meter) Grand Princess by rope as the vessel lay at anchor off the coast of San Francisco.

Kailee Higgins Ott, a passenger on Grand Princess from California, who is 17, told USA TODAY that she’s not worried about herself. “But I’m worried because we made friends with some older folks on the cruise,” she said. “I’m worried about them and the crew members.”

Across the hall from Higgins Ott’s state room, some guests were being tested. The medical team was wearing white masks over their mouths with a clear face mask cover. Their bodies were fully covered and they were wearing gloves.

“The test took place in the room,” she said. “There’s about five medical people that helped with the testing.”

A baby was being tested, too. She heard that test would take longer to conduct than the others.

How many are showing symptoms and being tested? 

Dozens of passengers have had flu-like symptoms over the past two weeks or so, said Mary Ellen Carroll, executive director of San Francisco’s Department of Emergency Management. As of Wednesday, there were at least 11 passengers and 10 crew members who reported symptoms of coronavirus on board, California. Gov. Gavin Newsom said. 

What’s it like for those on the ship?

While confined in their rooms, guests will receive all meals by room service. Extra television and movie options have been added to programming in each state room and guests have been given complimentary internet service –the ship’s bandwidth has been increased, according to the cruise line.

Higgins Ott said once passengers were informed they should remain in their staterooms, there was a scramble in the shops and restaurants on board to stock up. 

“There were a lot of people in the lobby, there were a lot of people in the store, getting food and chips,” Higgins Ott said Thursday as the lunch period was ending. “People tried to get into the dining rooms, to do last-minute things.”

In a video recording obtained by USA TODAY of a Thursday evening announcement from the captain detailed that process of meal delivery in addition to an update on the status of testing.

“The sample collection continues for guests,” the captain can be heard saying. “We expect the test results sometime in the near future, as previously advised we anticipate that we will receive the first results tomorrow morning.”

What about for those that disembarked from its Mexico voyage?

A passenger from the Mexico voyage, Judy Cadiz of Lodi said she and her husband became ill afterward but did not give it much thought until learning a fellow traveler had died of the virus. Now they cannot get a straight answer about how to get tested, she said.

With Mark Cadiz, 65, running a fever, the couple worries not only about themselves, but about the possibility that — if they contracted the infection — they could have passed it on to others.

“They’re telling us to stay home, but nobody told me until yesterday to stay home. We were in Sacramento, we were in Martinez, we were in Oakland. We took a train home from the cruise,” Judy Cadiz said Thursday. “I really hope that we’re negative so nobody got infected.”

This isn’t Princess Cruises’ first coronavirus cruise situation 

Princess Cruises also owns the Diamond Princess, the ship that was quarantined in Yokohama, Japan, and experienced a coronavirus outbreak that infected more than 700 passengers. 

The Princess Cruises ship was carrying 2,666 guests and 1,045 crew when it set sail and was quarantined after 10 cases of coronavirus were reported Feb. 4. About 380 Americans were on the cruise ship. The State Department coordinated with the Department of Health and Human Services and other agencies to bring passengers back to the U.S. 

All but a handful of the remaining passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship who had been quarantined at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio were released to return home Tuesday. Passengers who had symptoms during the quarantine in Texas and tested positive for coronavirus will remain in isolation.

Meanwhile, Princess Cruises’ Sun Princess was met with riots when stopping in port at Réunion Island on Sunday, Princess Cruises confirmed to USA TODAY.

The reason? More concerns over coronavirus. There had not been any cases reported in Réunion as of Wednesday, nor on the ship.

Princess Cruises said Wednesday that there are no concerns of coronavirus on the ship.

“We can confirm that there are no cases of COVID-19 onboard Sun Princess. Sun Princess is heading back to Fremantle (Australia) as scheduled with arrival March 10th,” Princess Cruises said in a statement shared with USA TODAY by spokesperson Alivia  Owyoung Ender on Wednesday.

What is happening with future Princess Cruises? 

Princess has adjusted its cancellation policy, at least temporarily, to allow people who have booked an upcoming cruise to change their plans. Those who have a cruise booked through May 31, 2020 can make changes to their reservations, the company stated. 

Contributing: The Associated Press 

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