Gavin Newsom said Sunday it could take three days or longer to get passengers off the Grand Princess, which will dock Monday at the commercial port of Oakland to disembark all passengers and those who need medical attention, including 19 infected crew members.
Many Californians on board will eventually be sent to two California military bases.
The governor expected the operation to take up to three days, but stressed that the situation was “fluid” and could take longer, in part because the port does not regularly deal with cruise ships and there would only be small windows of opportunity for it to enter the port, based on tides and currents.
After medical cases, California residents would be prioritized for disembarkation, and be taken to Travis Air Force base in nearby Solano County to begin a 14-day quarantine.
It is the same base where passengers from the Diamond Princess were recently held after that ship had an outbreak of the virus, and where there has been suspected community spread of COVID-19.
The remainder of American passengers will be sent to military bases in Texas and Georgia, while foreign passengers will be sent to their home countries via charter flights from Oakland International Airport. Newsom stressed those cruise passengers traveling by air would have no contact with regular travelers.
About 1,000 Californians are expected to go to Travis, with the remainder going to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego.
Newsom said 12 positive cases of COVID-19 had been identified in passengers on the previous cruise, which went from San Francisco to Mexico, and included a Placer County man who later died of the virus. The cruise line and California health officials have disagreed on whether the man contracted the illness on board or was infected prior to the journey.
Newsom also said that health officials are currently monitoring 1,540 passengers on the previous Grand Princess cruise to Mexico.
Crew will be quarantined on board, with the ship leaving the Oakland port. The majority of crew are foreign nationals, and Newsom said that many are younger, a demographic with less risk from COVID-19.
Newsom also had harsh words for the cruise industry, saying stricter protocols were needed. He added that California had heavy cruise-ship traffic and couldn’t continue to handle large-scale quarantines from ships.
“We simply, as a state, cannot experience this kind of operation at the scale that is likely,” if cruise ships don’t take more precautions, Newsom said.
Newsom said the number of Californians testing positive jumped from 88 Saturday to 114 Sunday, but he stressed that the number was expected to rise as testing became more widely available. California has testing kits for 8,000 individuals and a private lab — Quest Diagnostics in San Juan Capistrano — will be able to process 2,000 tests each day beginning Monday, if needed.
There are also 15 public labs processing tests, including a facility in Richmond, where tests for the Grand Princess passengers were conducted. Newsom said California has so far tested about 788 people for the virus, but he expected that to increase dramatically in coming days with the new capacity.
California Health and Human Services head Mark Ghaly said the state has requested an additional 12,000 testing kits from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and expects to receive those in coming days.