The Grand Princess cruise ship — which was carrying at least 21 people who tested positive for COVID-19 — docked at the Port of Oakland on Monday to begin disembarking passengers ahead of further quarantining measures.
The ship, operated by Princess Cruises, had been idling about 10 miles offshore since Thursday while passengers and crew awaited tests and plans for treating the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. Authorities had also fenced off an 11-acre site at the port while organizing logistics and best practices for transporting guests upon arrival.
The Grand Princess was carrying more than 2,000 passengers, as well as 1,100 crew members. All disembarking American passengers are being put under mandatory 14-day quarantine at military bases in California, Texas or Georgia, with the majority (over 1,000 passengers from California) being sent to the Travis Air Force Base north of San Francisco and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar near San Diego.
Foreign passengers are being sent to their home countries for the completion of quarantine.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom had previously said the crew of the ship will remain on board for treatment.
“That ship will turn around — and they are currently assessing appropriate places to bring that quarantined ship — but it will not be here in the San Francisco Bay,” he said, per the Associated Press.
A representative for Princes Cruises was not immediately available to share details of its plan following the disembarkation of guests at the Port of Oakland.
As of Friday, 19 crew members and two passengers had tested positive for coronavirus.
Alex Azar, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, appeared on the Fox News Channel on Monday to explain additional measures for offloading passengers.
"They’re going to be offloading in a way that protects, first and foremost, the community and secondly protects those individuals," Azar said, noting that passengers would be in "an isolation quarantine environment" before heading to facilities around the country for further quarantine.
"We're going to be leaving the crew on board the ship, although we're surging medical staff," he added. "We already have put people on board the ship to isolate those individuals, make sure appropriate isolation and quarantine is happening on board that ship and we’re working very closely with Governor [Gavin] Newsom and the mayor of Oakland on all of these efforts.”
Princess Cruises previously confirmed details of its plan to disembark passengers on Sunday, saying it would “commence in order of priority, as defined and directed by both state and local authorities,” and likely take multiple days.
“The U.S. Coast Guard will be sending California Health & Human Services teams to assist with medical triage, screening and interviews, and prioritizing those who require the most acute care,” Princess Cruises wrote in an advisory posted to its website on Sunday. “To avoid delays, testing will be conducted when guests arrive at their onward destination.”
The cruise line added that it had incorporated “learnings from our recent experience in Japan” to better assist passengers that were currently on the ship. (Another of the line’s fleet, the Diamond Princess, was quarantined for weeks outside of Yokohama, Japan, and resulted in hundreds of infected passengers.) Among those “learnings” include tactics for getting prescription medication to quarantined guests, instituting a “fresh air and sunlight program” approved by the CDC, and offering free Internet to all occupants.
Concerns arose for the passengers and crew of the Grand Princess after an elderly passenger who had sailed on the ship’s previous voyage tested positive for COVID-19 in Placer County, Calif., before ultimately succumbing to the illness.