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Coronavirus Quarantines Beset Cruise Ship Passengers and Crew on East and West Coasts

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- The Grand Princess cruise ship has been confined to the San Francisco Bay for more than a month. KPIX has learned that a crew member from the Philippines has died from the coronavirus at a San Francisco hospital.

After passengers were taken off the ship last month, hundreds of workers were quarantined onboard.

Some of those crew members posted a video pleading to be evacuated: "On behalf of all the Indian crew, we are asking India to evacuate us from this ship. We are feeling very alone and wanting to reunite with our families as soon as possible."

Last month, nearly all passengers aboard the quarantined ship were taken to various quarantine zones after 21 people tested positive, including two passengers and 19 crew members. The 14-day quarantine is set to end Saturday as hundreds of workers remain onboard. So far, the company has not announced where the vessel will go or how the crew will be getting home.

On Friday, unions and community groups representing Filipino and South Asian crew members demanded the cruise company do more to protect those workers.

The coalition, which has been in contact with the crew members, is demanding Princess Cruises provide more transparency on the workers' situation, like the number of workers tested and the level of treatment being provided. Additionally, the coalition is demanding increased testing for workers.

"It is our understanding that the workers on the ship are screened regularly," said Swati Rayasam with Alliance for South Asians Taking Action.

However, she said, "Screening is not a substitute for testing and, considering the environment these workers are in with regard to being in close quarters and that as workers they are a vulnerable population, they should be treated and tested humanely."

Because many of the workers are from India and the Philippines, the coalition is also demanding that Princess Cruises and the American government create a plan to repatriate them, as both countries have closed their borders until at least April 14 due to COVID-19.

The coalition also denounced reports that workers aboard the ship may have been tasked with disinfecting the ship.

"This is deeply problematic," Swati said, citing the workers' lack of personal protective equipment and disinfection training.

"Some of these workers have now been on the ship for close to four weeks, and if they stay on the ship because they can't get back to the Philippines and India where there are travel bans until April 14, then this is further exposing them," said Terry Valen with the National Alliance for Concerns.

"These are amazing and hard workers," he said. "We need more transparency about what's happening, what's the plan to take care of these workers on the ship; as they get off; every step of the process."


When the Coral Princess departed South America at the end of February, the coronavirus was not recognized as a serious threat but, now, the ship is hovering off Fort Lauderdale in limbo and the journey is far from over for many passengers.

Fremont residents Julie Sprague-Mcrae and her husband Richard set out on a 32-day journey from Chile to South Florida on February 29. They never imagined they would be approaching their final weekend on the Coral Princess in self-isolation with no end in sight.

"We're pretty overwhelmed. We keep getting new pieces of information that continue to throw us curve balls," said Julie Sprague-McRae.

The latest curve ball -- the ship will not dock at Port Everglades Saturday as originally planned.

Princess Cruises said 12 people on board have tested positive for COVID-19.

On Friday, the Coast Guard issued an order blocking the ship from entering U.S. territorial waters until it comes up with an approved plan for disembarking and hospitalizing people on board.

"We just cannot have more people with our medical system. We don't have capacity," said Broward County Commissioner Mark Bogen.

Sprague-McRae is a retired nurse practitioner. She says the Coral Princess is also over-burdened.

"The medical staff is overwhelmed and they're not going to have all the resources they need to manage this, that's why it's really going to be important to get this ship somewhere where it's safely docked," she added.

At Port Everglades, two Holland America ships -- the Rotterdam and Zaandam -- were allowed to dock with scores of sick passengers exhibiting flu-like symptoms after a month at sea and rejections from other countries. Fourteen people were rushed to hospitals and four have died on the Zaandam.

Some passengers with no symptoms landed at SFO on a chartered flight Friday evening. They've been screened and cleared to take commercial flights home.

© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News contributed to this report

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