SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – The cruise ship forced to idle for days off the California coast because of a cluster of coronavirus cases aboard arrived in port Monday, and dozen of passengers began to leave for military bases where they would be quarantined or to return to their home countries.
The Grand Princess pulled into the Port of Oakland with more than 3,500 people aboard — 21 confirmed to be infected with the new virus. Passengers lining the balconies waved and some left the cabins where they had been in isolation to go on deck.
As the ship sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge to enter the harbor, passenger Karen Schwartz Dever said “everyone was hollering and clapping.”
Twenty-three people who needed acute medical care had been taken off the ship by late Monday afternoon, but it was not clear how many of them had tested positive for the virus, said Brian Ferguson, a spokesman for the California Office of Emergency Services.
Live TV footage showed at least one passenger, an older man wearing a face mask, climbing onto a stretcher and being lifted into the back of an ambulance. Officials have said the unloading will take up to three days.
“Our intent is to basically disembark about half the passengers today. Everyone will be screened initially today," said Robert Kadlec, assistant secretary of Health and Human Services Services.
Many of the nearly 240 Canadians on board left the ship after the critically ill and stood outside two tents displaying Canadian flags. Canada and the UK were among the countries sending chartered flights to retrieve their citizens.
U.S. passengers will be flown or bused from the port — chosen for its proximity to an airport and a military base — to bases in California, Texas and Georgia for testing and a 14-day quarantine. The ship is carrying people from 54 countries, and foreigners will be whisked home.