BREAKING NEWS : Fort Wayne SWAT spraying, throwing tear gas at George Floyd protesters Full Story

Cruise ships with hundreds of sick passengers to arrive off Florida coast early Thursday

Article Image

Amy Weeds Jones is pleading with authorities to allow her ailing parents to leave Holland America's Zaandam cruise ship as it attempts to dock in Florida.

Posted: Apr 3, 2020 1:10 AM
Updated: Apr 3, 2020 1:10 AM

A pair of cruise ships carrying more than 200 guests and crew with flu-like symptoms, including eight passengers who tested positive for Covid-19, were expected off Florida's coast early Thursday.

But whether passengers will be allowed to disembark remained unclear.

Calling the plight of those on board a "humanitarian situation," Holland America ON Wednesday evening made a last-ditch appeal to federal and local authorities to allow the Zaandam and Rotterdam cruise ships to disembark in Fort Lauderdale's Port of Everglades.

"We appreciate the support of President Trump in resolving the humanitarian plight of our guests," the British-American cruise line said in a statement. "Holland America Line calls for compassion and reason in the review and approval of our disembarkation plan by Florida officials."

The appeal came hours after Gov. Ron DeSantis said his state was willing to accept Floridians on board the cruise ships.

"My concern is that we have worked so hard to make sure we have adequate hospital space in the event of a Covid-19 surge, we wouldn't want those valuable beds to be taken because of the cruise ship," DeSantis said.

There are 808 guests and 583 crew on the Rotterdam and 442 guests and 603 crew on the Zaandam, according to Holland America. There are 311 American citizens, including 52 Floridians.

DeSantis expressed concerns about taking in others given the state's limited hospital beds.

"We are going to be willing to accept Floridians on board," he told reporters. "My understanding is most of the passengers are foreign nationals."

The cruise line said 97 guests and 136 crew on the ships have flu-like symptoms. The ill passengers would stay isolated on board until they recover.

Holland America said it had secured a local health system to treat the fewer than 10 people in need of immediate critical care onshore.

"This small number is the only group that will require any support from medical resources in Broward County and is necessary to prevent further harm to their health," the cruise line statement said.

Nearly 1,200 guests are fit to travel home, per CDC guidelines, according to the cruise line, which suggested those travelers could catch flights home after disembarking. The guests would be transported in sanitized coaches with limited person-to-person contact and masks.

The governor has said there is about 30% hospital bed availability in Florida, where two field hospitals have been set up in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

Trump on Tuesday night said he had planned to discuss the situation with DeSantis.

"People are dying on the ship, or at least very sick, but they are dying on the ship," Trump said. "So, I'm going to do what is right."

Fort Lauderdale's mayor said he planned to meet Wednesday with Holland America's CEO to discuss a possible solution.

"We want these ill people to find immediate medical assistance," Mayor Dean Trantalis told CNN. "We have to be comfortable knowing that they're being quarantined in such a way they don't infect the rest of the community."

The Zaandam, on which four guests have died since it departed Argentina's capital March 7, is among more than a dozen cruise ships stranded at sea as ports deny entry and passengers panic about returning home.

"We were not against the ships docking in our community," Trantalis said. "The problem is that no protocol has been established yet to allow these folks to come off the ship. We are in a midst of a humanitarian crisis here."

US Coast Guard says foreign vessels were straining medical resources

Officials at the Port of Everglades said Holland America must have an approved docking and disembarking plan before its ships can enter US waters.

US Sen. Rick Scott of Florida has said every Zaandam passenger must be quarantined for 14 days.

"We have to ensure the sick are getting properly treated, but we can't take any chances," he said in a statement this week.

The Zaandam began transiting the Panama Canal late Sunday after being docked off Panama for several days. The boat and its occupants have been in limbo for weeks awaiting permission to disembark after several South American ports denied the ship's entry.

"We have to be able to allow people to step off the ship and be able to return to families, whether in Florida, anywhere in this country or anywhere around the world," Trantalis said Wednesday. "But we cannot do it willy-nilly. We have to be sure we're taking precautions."

The US Coast Guard, in a marine safety information bulletin issued Sunday, said an increase in foreign passenger vessels requiring medical evacuations was straining local medical resources.

Passengers have "better access to comfortable surroundings and medical staff on board the foreign passenger vessel where care is already being provided," according to the bulletin.

"This is necessary as shore-side medical facilities may reach full capacity and lose the ability to accept and effectively treat additional critically-ill patients," the bulletin said.

Jennifer Allan said her mother, Gloria Weed, 70, and father, Bill Weed, 75, have been quarantined in their cabin aboard the Zaandam in what she described as "solitary confinement."

"My dad has developed pneumonia," she told CNN this week. "He's getting worse. They need to get to land. They need to get medical attention sooner rather than later."

Allan said her parents, who live in Sarasota, Florida, came down with a fever about 10 days ago. She described the efforts of the Zaandam crew members to care for passengers as "extraordinary" even though many are themselves sick.

No one has left the ship since it stopped in Punta Arenas, Chile, on March 14. Guests were originally told they could disembark in Chile for flights, but ultimately that was forbidden.

Holland America deployed the Rotterdam to offer relief. Rotterdam met Zaandam off Panama on March 26 to "provide extra supplies, staff, Covid-19 test kits and other support as needed."

Previously, the ship had no coronavirus test kits on board.

Holland America transferred healthy Zaandam guests to Rotterdam, which is also is looking for a port. Wednesday afternoon, both vessels were off the western tip of Cuba, according to the ship tracking website MarineTraffic.

The president of Holland America Line, Orlando Ashford, wrote an op-ed printed in the South Florida Sun Sentinel on Monday asking for compassion for the Zaandam's guests.

"And we need confirmation from a port that is willing to extend the same compassion and grace that Panama did, and allow us to come in so our guests can go straight to the airport for flights home. It's tempting to speculate about the illnesses that may have been avoided or lives saved if we'd gotten the assistance we sought weeks ago," he wrote as the ship seeks a place to dock.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 33068

Reported Deaths: 2068
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion9524558
Lake3494175
Cass15897
Allen141966
St. Joseph122134
Hendricks114268
Hamilton113292
Elkhart110128
Johnson1092106
Madison58459
Porter50522
Bartholomew49034
Clark47941
LaPorte42022
Tippecanoe3823
Howard37824
Delaware37636
Jackson3721
Shelby36822
Hancock32727
Floyd31739
Boone30535
Morgan27724
Vanderburgh2592
Montgomery23417
White2308
Decatur22431
Clinton2221
Noble20421
Grant19721
Dubois1903
Harrison18921
Henry16910
Greene16824
Monroe16512
Warrick16528
Dearborn16521
Vigo1538
Lawrence15223
Miami1401
Putnam1357
Jennings1294
Orange12422
Scott1203
Ripley1106
Franklin1098
Kosciusko1011
Carroll933
Daviess8416
Steuben812
Marshall801
Newton7610
Wayne756
Fayette747
Wabash742
LaGrange682
Jasper661
Washington511
Jay490
Fulton471
Clay461
Rush452
Randolph453
Jefferson431
Pulaski410
Whitley383
Owen351
Sullivan341
DeKalb331
Brown331
Starke323
Perry280
Wells270
Benton260
Huntington262
Knox250
Tipton241
Crawford230
Blackford222
Parke190
Spencer191
Switzerland190
Fountain182
Posey160
Gibson142
Adams131
Ohio130
Warren121
Vermillion100
Martin90
Union80
Pike60
Unassigned0161

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 33915

Reported Deaths: 2098
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin5566253
Cuyahoga4211226
Marion264225
Hamilton2555135
Lucas2178240
Pickaway204836
Mahoning1397173
Summit1335172
Butler84728
Stark70591
Columbiana68451
Lorain66759
Montgomery63717
Trumbull55147
Belmont41212
Miami35230
Warren35119
Tuscarawas3373
Ashtabula32434
Portage31857
Medina31322
Delaware31013
Lake29012
Wood28246
Geauga27231
Wayne26049
Fairfield2515
Clark2345
Licking22210
Allen20632
Clermont2025
Mercer2016
Richland1933
Erie1656
Darke16221
Madison1487
Washington11819
Crawford1103
Morrow1041
Greene1015
Ottawa9312
Putnam8814
Monroe7512
Sandusky7211
Hocking694
Ross672
Jefferson662
Auglaize653
Huron561
Williams511
Hancock512
Union491
Muskingum480
Clinton430
Hardin420
Shelby403
Fayette390
Wyandot382
Logan370
Fulton370
Coshocton370
Guernsey340
Defiance332
Preble331
Carroll303
Lawrence290
Holmes291
Brown281
Champaign271
Knox231
Highland221
Seneca202
Vinton192
Ashland190
Athens181
Perry181
Henry150
Scioto150
Jackson130
Paulding130
Harrison100
Adams81
Gallia71
Van Wert60
Pike60
Meigs60
Noble50
Morgan50
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Broken Clouds
64° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 64°
Angola
Overcast
66° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 66°
Huntington
Broken Clouds
65° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 65°
Decatur
Overcast
68° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 68°
Van Wert
Overcast
68° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 68°
Sunny & Pleasant Weekend
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events