Cruise ship hit by virus to dock in Oakland

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – A cruise ship hit by the new coronavirus is headed to the port of Oakland, California, the captain told passengers, though they were destined to stay aboard the ship for at least another day.

Grand Princess Captain John Smith, in a recording provided by passenger Laurie Miller of San Jose, told guests the ship will dock in Oakland. Princess Cruises says it’s expected to arrive on Monday. The ship is carrying more than 3,500 people from 54 countries.

“An agreement has been reached to bring our ship into the port of Oakland,” he told passengers Saturday night. “After docking, we will then begin a disembarkation process specified by federal authorities that will take several days.”

Smith said passengers who need medical treatment or hospitalisation will go to health care facilities in California, while state residents who don’t require acute medical care “will go to a federally operated isolation facility within California for testing and isolation.”

US guests from other states will be transported by the federal government to facilities in other states. Crew members will be quarantined and treated aboard the ship.

Air Station crew members load personal protective equipment into a helicopter in San Francisco. Thousands of anxious people were confined to a cruise ship, after 21 passengers and crew members tested positive for the new coronavirus. PHOTO: AP

Smith said the information he was given did not include any details about what would happen to passengers from other countries.

“We are working to obtain more details overnight. … I’m sorry I can’t provide you more details right now,” he said.

The Grand Princess had been forbidden to dock in San Francisco amid evidence that the vessel was the breeding ground for a cluster of nearly 20 cases that resulted in at least one death after a previous voyage.

Meanwhile, the US death toll from the virus climbed to 19, with all but three victims in Washington state. The number of infections swelled to more than 400, scattered across the US, as passengers aboard the ship holed up in their rooms.

Steven Smith and his wife, Michele, of Paradise, California, went on the cruise to celebrate their wedding anniversary. The Smiths said they were a bit worried but felt safe in their room, which they had left just once since Thursday to video chat with their children.