Cruise ship off California coast found to have 21 virus cases

At least 21 people on a cruise ship circling off the California coast have tested positive for the new coronavirus, while infections linked to the vessel’s prior voyage have emerged across the state.

A doctor uses a pipette during coronavirus patient sample detection tests in the virology research labs at UZ Leuven university hospital in Leuven, Belgium, on Friday, Feb. 28, 2020.

Nineteen crew members and two passengers on the Grand Princess ship have confirmed infections, Vice President Mike Pence said at a new conference in Washington Friday. Forty-six people were tested. Most passengers had been allowed to roam the ship freely until Thursday afternoon, when they were asked to stay in their cabins.

The Grand Princess — operated by Carnival Corp.’s Princess Cruises — has been stuck in limbo with more than 3,500 people onboard since California Governor Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday that a 71-year-old man who had travelled on the ship in mid-February had died of the virus. State and federal authorities rushed testing kits to the ship via helicopter Thursday.

Nineteen crew members and two passengers on the Grand Princess ship have confirmed infections.

Pence said the ship, which had initially planned to dock this week in San Francisco, would be allowed to dock at a non-commercial port this weekend. All of the passengers and crew will be tested, and quarantined if necessary.

“Cruise ships represent a unique challenge for health officials,” Pence said, adding that elderly Americans should carefully consider whether to take cruises.

Princess Cruises said in a statement Friday that the ship’s doctor is in the process of informing guests and crew of their individual results. The company said it learned of the positive cases from Pence’s press conference and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention simultaneously speaking to the shipboard doctor.

Rising Cases

The news came as the number of coronavirus cases in California — one of the states hardest hit so far — rose to 69, including at least one death. Nearly 10,000 people who have recently returned to the U.S. through the Los Angeles and San Francisco airports are being monitored for the illness, according to the state.

Meanwhile, state officials on Friday linked at least five more coronavirus cases to the Grand Princess’s trip to Mexico from Feb. 11 to Feb. 21. California has now confirmed at least eight cases tied to that voyage, including the fatality.

The Diamond Princess cruise ship, operated by Carnival Corp., sits docked as members of media stand in Yokohama, Japan, on Friday, Feb. 7, 2020.

Princess said late Friday that it is helping guests to replenish needed prescription medicines and providing room service to all staterooms.

Carnival’s Princess division is again at the center of a coronavirus outbreak after more than 700 people from its Diamond Princess cruise ship tested positive and were under quarantine for a time in Yokohama, Japan.

The episodes raised broader concerns about disease transmission on cruises and prompted several nations to turn away boats over ultimately unfounded suspicions of coronavirus on board. .

The Diamond Princess situation took place in Asia, a small, albeit growing, market for the cruise business. But now concern is shifting to the industry’s core North American markets, including the Caribbean and the Pacific, weighing on sales during the business’s peak booking season.