FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Two more cruise ships with sick people aboard are heading to South Florida, joining a string of vessels with plans to dock at Port Everglades amid concerns about the new coronavirus.
The Celebrity Silhouette and Caribbean Princess have some crew members who are sick with influenza-like symptoms. Four of the Silhouette’s crew members are sick but in stable condition. They were placed in isolation but haven’t been tested for the coronavirus. The Caribbean Princess reports having at least one crew member in isolation because of an influenza-like illness.
The ships’ pending arrival comes amid intensifying debate over whether ships with sick people should be allowed to dock at Port Everglades. Those against letting the ships dock say it could spread disease and overwhelm South Florida hospitals that already have an influx of seriously ill patients. Those who favor letting the ships dock say there should be compassion for the sick.
In recent days, Broward County commissioners have been reviewing whether two Holland America cruise liners with scores of American and international passengers should be allowed to dock at the port. One ship, the Zaandam, had four people die, in addition to nearly 200 who fell ill. The commissioners’ decision is still pending. A meeting is being considered for Thursday morning before the ships are scheduled to arrive.
The Celebrity Silhouette and Caribbean Princess, neither of which have passengers aboard, planned to enter Port Everglades later Wednesday, Glenn Wiltshire, acting port director, said in an email to county commissioners.
Ships with no passengers “come into the port for fuel and supplies,” said Ellen Kennedy, port spokeswoman. “There are a lot of cruise ships in the waters worldwide due to the voluntary suspension of services. We see a lot offshore here at home that are waiting to start service again.”
The Coast Guard had initially denied Celebrity Silhouette from entering American waters, but ultimately cleared the ship for entry after receiving more information from the ship’s parent company, Celebrity Cruises. The Coast Guard concluded there would be enough done to ensure safety, including allowing only healthy crew members to be taken directly to Miami International Airport for international flights. Wiltshire’s email didn’t elaborate on what would done for the sick people.
The Caribbean Princess was told to not enter the U.S. until it provided the Coast Guard more information.
“Since there was insufficient information provided by the cruise line on the nature of the illness and potential exposure pathways to other crew members that may be scheduled to debark the vessel, the US Coast Guard denied entry of the vessel to US territorial waters until a plan that addresses the medical situation aboard the vessel is received and approved.”
The Unified Command — which includes the Broward Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Border Patrol and U.S. Coast Guard — will be meeting by conference call Wednesday to review any additional information submitted by Princess to determine whether the vessel will be allowed to enter Port Everglades, “and the vessel will remain offshore until a plan acceptable to the Unified Command is submitted and approved.”
There are still more ships with pending arrivals. Princess Cruises’ Coral Princess, which has a “higher-than-normal” number of people with flulike symptoms, plans to arrive at Port Everglades on Saturday following a service call in Bridgetown, Barbados, on Tuesday night, the cruise line said in a statement.
Many sick passengers have tested positive for regular influenza, the Tuesday statement said, adding, that given the concern of coronavirus, “guests have been asked to self-isolate in their staterooms and all meals will now be delivered by room service.” Crew members will remain in their staterooms when not working, the statement said.
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