Coast Guard Helicopters Deliver Supplies to Grand Princess Cruise Ship

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Coast Guard crew members load personal protective equipment into a helicopter in San Francisco.
In this March 6, 2020, image provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, Air Station crew members load personal protective equipment into a helicopter in San Francisco. Thousands of anxious people were confined Saturday to a cruise ship circling in international waters off the San Francisco Bay Area, after 21 passengers and crew members tested positive for the new coronavirus. The Grand Princess was forbidden to dock in San Francisco amid evidence that the vessel had been the breeding ground for a cluster of nearly 20 cases that resulted in at least one death after its previous voyage. (Taylor Bacon/U.S. Coast Guard)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Two passengers were evacuated Saturday off the stricken Grand Princess cruise ship, which has been held off the coast of Northern California after 21 of its passengers tested positive for coronavirus, according to news reports.

Princess Cruises said Saturday morning that "a critically ill U.S. guest and their travel companion were medically disembarked from Grand Princess earlier this morning by a U.S. Coast Guard cutter." The company said they are being transported to an area hospital, but provided no further details.

The rest of the 3,531 passengers and crew are still awaiting an official announcement about plans to leave the ship, which has 20 remaining passengers aboard who have tested positive for the new coronavirus.

On Friday night, Coast Guard helicopters flew supplies to the ship, which is idling 20 miles off the coast of San Mateo County "for logistical purposes," according to company officials.

The company, which is operated by Miami-based Carnival, confirmed that "personal protective equipment (PPE), which included gloves and face masks, was delivered to Grand Princess by U.S. Coast Guard helicopter" to supplement supplies already onboard.

The age ranges for the 21 who have tested positive are: Three passengers ages 21 to 29 years old; four people who are 30 to 39; six who are 40 to 49; six who are 50 to 59; one who is between 60 and 69; and one between 70 and 79 years old. Only 46 passengers have been tested so far, but all of the passengers will be tested at some point, officials said.

At least eight positive tests have been connected to the ship's previous voyage to Mexico, including a Placer County man who died.

A Madera County resident has been confirmed as the latest case connected to the ship, according to The Fresno Bee. The patient, whose identity and gender have not been released, has been isolated and is reported to be hospitalized in stable condition, according to a statement by Dr. Simon Paul, Madera County's public health officer.

On Saturday, the San Jose Mercury News reported that the first positive test of coronavirus in Santa Cruz County came from a recent Grand Princess passenger.

On Friday night, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said they would quarantine the 1,100-member crew aboard the ship off the coast of San Francisco but will transport passengers to quarantine sites in the United States. It's not known where the ship will dock, though Vice President Mike Pence said federal and state authorities are working together to bring the cruise ship into a noncommercial port.

According to the Mercury News, California's only active military port is based in San Diego. But there are closed naval bases in Alameda, Vallejo and other locations that could potentially accommodate the ship. The military also maintains a small port on the Delta near Concord.

"It's very likely that the crew on the Grand Princess was exposed on two different outings, and we know the coronavirus manifested among the previous passengers," Pence said, "and so we will find that out. But we will be testing everyone on the ship. We will be quarantining as necessary. But with regard to the 1,100 member crew, we anticipate that they will be quarantined on the ship, will not need to disembark."

With every passing hour, more aboard the ship as well as family back home are becoming increasingly worried about exposure.

Lisa Egan of Colorado said she's concerned her father, Cliff Egan, could be exposed on his first cruise since his wife died last year. He turned 90 on board.

Before Cliff boarded the Grand Princess on Feb. 21 in San Francisco, Lisa said she talked to him about the risk of coronavirus. But since it wasn't an international trip, except for a stop in Baja California, Mexico, they agreed he would be OK.

Then, early Thursday morning a note from Princess Cruises slipped under his cabin door. The ship was not going to Mexico. Instead it was headed back to California because a Placer County man on the previous cruise had died of COVID-19.

"My biggest concern is that my dad's going to have this and isn't going to survive it," she said, crying. "I'm not worried about if he has to be quarantined for a couple of weeks, we'll get through that. I'm worried he won't survive if he has the virus."

Another passenger aboard the Grand Princess told The Sacramento Bee she and her 83-year-old grandmother are frustrated because the captain and crew are not sharing information fast enough.

"Just now, they announced the test results (21 confirmed cases), about 20 minutes after my dad texted me the Washington Post breaking news update," the woman said. "Up until yesterday when we were confined to our cabins, we had access to everything on the ship _ buffet, dining room, restaurants, cafes, pools, hot tubs, bars, gym, spa, basketball court, etc. As an overall experience, despite having subpar coffee on this ship, it was a dream vacation until yesterday."

All passengers are confined to their cabins, and the captain announced he has requested the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention allow passengers time on deck for air and exercise.

According to the state Department of Public Health website, there were 69 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and one reported death in California as of Friday. The total includes 24 patients who were repatriated from Wuhan, China, and the Diamond Princess cruise off of Japan.

A map maintained by Johns Hopkins University, showed nearly 350 cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. as of Saturday morning. Public health officials have confirmed more than 70 of those cases in Washington state, where the death toll rose to 14 on Friday morning.

Symptoms of the virus that causes COVID-19 include fever, cough and shortness of breath, which may occur two days to two weeks after exposure. Most develop only mild symptoms, but some people develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal. The disease is especially dangerous to the elderly and others with weaker immune systems.

This article is written by Daniel Hunt, Cathie Anderson and Taylor Dolven from The Sacramento Bee and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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