Carnival Ship Linked to Virus Death May Not Go to San Francisco
Buses with passengers believed to be U.S. citizens drive away from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, operated by Carnival Corp., docked in Yokohama, Japan. (Photographer: Toru Hanai/Bloomberg)

Carnival Ship Linked to Virus Death May Not Go to San Francisco

(Bloomberg) -- A cruise ship being held off the California coast while some of its passengers and crew are tested for the coronavirus may not dock in San Francisco after all as federal officials weigh where to bring the vessel.

Carnival Corp.’s Princess Cruises diverted the ship from a planned stop in Mexico after a California man who had been aboard on a previous trip tested positive for the virus. He died Wednesday, becoming the virus’s first fatality in the state.

Carnival had planned to dock the Grand Princess in San Francisco, but city officials said Thursday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with state authorities, would decide where to send the ship.

They need a location where any infected passengers could be whisked to a treatment facility without endangering the community. California and federal health officials rushed testing kits to the ship via helicopter Wednesday for processing at a Bay Area lab.

“I want to be clear with the people of San Francisco that we’re doing everything we can to work with our state and federal partners to prepare, if it comes to San Francisco,” Mayor London Breed said at a press conference.

News that another leisure ship could be tied to the rapidly spreading virus sent cruise stocks plunging Thursday. Carnival dropped 14% to $27.87, its lowest level since 2009.

Princess didn’t immediately provide an update on the ship’s status.

Carnival’s Princess brand was at the center of the largest -- and to date only -- known outbreak of coronavirus at sea. More than 700 people who had been on board the Diamond Princess tested positive and were under quarantine on board at one point in Yokohama, Japan.

Wary Ports

Since then, a number of cruise ships have been turned away from ports over fears that they could bring the illness ashore, even though passengers hadn’t been found to have the virus.

California officials reported Wednesday that two state residents who sailed on the Grand Princess in mid-February tested positive for the virus, including the 71-year-old man who died. The CDC and state authorities are trying to track down every passenger who disembarked from that voyage.

Meanwhile, 62 people from that trip remained with the ship for its current voyage, which was expected to include a stop in Ensenada, Mexico, after visits to ports in Hawaii. They are now among the 2,383 passengers and 1,100 crew members effectively quarantined on board, not knowing when they’ll be allowed to leave.

According to San Francisco officials, 35 people on board have suffered flu-like symptoms and are being tested for the virus.

“The ship will not come on shore until we appropriately assess the passengers,” California Governor Gavin Newsom said Wednesday, shortly after announcing a state of emergency because of the virus.

YouTube Posts

In a YouTube video, two women who say they’re aboard the ship played a message from the captain. He advised passengers that they would have to remain in their cabins after lunch Thursday and that meals would be delivered to them. He asked passengers to keep six feet away from each other while outside their cabins and said tests of people who had flu-like symptoms should be finished Thursday, with results expected tomorrow.

Identifying themselves as Leah and Laura, the women praised Princess’s handling of the crisis.

“They don’t even hand you a spoon without putting it in a tong and picking it up with a glove,” one said. “The morale here is great.”

In an earlier clip, the two said they were first told Wednesday morning that the ship would be returning early to San Francisco. The company told passengers it had been notified by the CDC that the federal health agency was investigating a “small cluster” of coronavirus cases connected to an earlier cruise.

Both women said they’d been suffering what they assumed to be a cold, so they notified shipboard authorities, who sent someone to check their condition. The ship’s medical personnel didn’t believe they had the coronavirus, they said.

“We’re sick, but we don’t have that,” Laura said in the clip.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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