The United States government and Florida were working on a plan on Wednesday to allow thousands of cruise ship passengers exposed to an on-board coronavirus outbreak to disembark, a day after President Donald Trump said the state needed to “do what’s right.”
Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis said he was not opposed to them docking in his city. But he said a clear protocol was needed to protect residents of his South Florida city from infection.
“There can be no missteps in this process,” he told CNN. “We have to be comfortable knowing that they are being quarantined in such a way that they do not infect the rest of the community,” Trantalis said.
One of the two Dutch cruise ships involved is Holland America Line’s MS Zaandam. Nearly two-thirds of its passengers, those who passed a medical screening, were moved to the line’s sister ship, the Rotterdam.
Both vessels were on the way to Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale: the Zaandam carrying nearly 1,050 passengers and crew, and the Rotterdam almost 1,450.
Federal, state and local officials have been negotiating over whether Carnival’s Holland America cruise ships, the Zaandam and Rotterdam, would be allowed to dock at Port Everglades this week. But the company’s Coral Princess is coming, too, with what that ship’s medical centre called a higher than normal number of people with flu-like symptoms.
Two of four deaths that have occurred on the Zaandam have been blamed on COVID-19 and nine people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the company said.
A total of 248 Canadians are among the 1,243 passengers and 1,247 crew members on the Zaandam and the Rotterdam.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday he spoke with county officials and Trump regarding the status of the ships.
“Clearly we’re going to be willing to accept any Floridians who are on board,” he said.
DeSantis said Tuesday that the state’s health-care system is stretched too thin to take on the foreign nationals on the ships.
“Just to drop people off at the place where we’re having the highest number of cases right now just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” he said.
But after speaking with Trump on Wednesday, he said, “I think there are probably going to be more developments on that today.”
‘I’m going to do what’s right,’ Trump says
Trump had expressed great concern about the passengers during a White House briefing on Tuesday.
“They’re dying on the ship,” the president said. “I’m going to do what’s right. Not only for us, but for humanity.”
Another Florida official, Broward County Mayor Dale Holness, said the port was being operated by a “unified command” of federal and state agencies discussing the situation.
“As it stands today, they’re going back and forth, working on a plan to ensure that we’re safeguarding the people of Broward County from further spread of this virus, but also seeing how we can find a way to deal with these folks” in a humanitarian manner, Holness said on MSNBC.
Jennifer Allan, whose 75-year-old father and 70-year-old mother are sick and stuck aboard the cruise ship Zaandam, was asked on NBC’s Today what she would say if she could speak with DeSantis.
“I would beg him and everybody who has the power to make this happen that we need to look at the humanity of what’s going on right now,” she said. “There needs to be compassion for these people.”
Florida has reported 6,490 cases of coronavirus, including 251 non-residents, and 85 deaths, according to the state website.
DeSantis, criticized by Democrats in the state and across the nation for not issuing a stay-at-home order sooner, did so on Wednesday. The order goes into effect Thursday at 12:01 a.m. ET and extends for 30 days.