After days in coronavirus limbo, the Grand Princess cruise ship arrived at the Port of Oakland this week and the city suddenly found itself at the center of a public health emergency.
Here’s what we know as the ship continues to unload thousands of weary passengers:
When did the cruise ship dock in Oakland?
The Grand Princess arrived in Oakland around noon Monday. Passengers started departing the vessel later in the afternoon. Emergency personnel spent the early afternoon setting up tents just off the dock where passengers are being screened prior to boarding buses for quaratine sites.
It’s “a good day to pack,” the captain announced over the ship’s intercom at 10 a.m., according to passengers.
Those with immediate medical needs, which could extend beyond cases of those suspected of having the coronavirus, disembarked first. Twenty-one people on board have tested positive for the virus.
How many passengers have gotten off the ship?
As of 7 p.m. Tuesday, 1,406 passengers had disembarked from the Grand Princess, according to the cruise line. That includes 320 Californians who were taken by bus over two days to Travis Air Force Base in Solano County to begin their 14-day quarantine.
Twenty-six people were taken to regional hospitals in six counties, but not all of them needed hospital care, according to the governor’s office. Those who didn’t require hospitalization were taken to hotels in Monterey County, Burlingame and San Carlos. The hotels have been closed to the public and are strictly dedicated to housing coronavirus patients, Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a news conference Tuesday.
Are passengers allowed to interact with the public?
No, according to authorities. “None of the passengers who disembark will be released into the general public,” according to a statement Monday by the California Office of Emergency Services. All passengers will face at least a 14-day quarantine, in various locations. Some passengers are being flown to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.
How many people are affected?
There are more than 3,500 passengers and crew on the ship, from 24 states and 54 countries. At least 21 have tested positive for COVID-19, including two passengers and 19 of the 1,100 crew members. Last week, a Placer County passenger on a previous Grand Princess trip became the first known California resident to die of the new coronavirus.
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How many coronavirus cases are associated with the Grand Princess?
Aside from those on the ship, 12 positive cases of COVID-19 have been identified in passengers on the previous cruise, Newsom said Sunday. That cruise went from San Francisco to Mexico and included the Placer County man who later died of the disease.
How did the ship prepare for the docking?
Emergency medical personnel, known as “hasty teams,” conducted medical screenings, waking passengers in the middle of the night Sunday as they went. They were covered head to toe in protective gear. To dock the boat, a pilot familiar with the port was brought on board.
How are the port and Oakland dealing with the crisis?
On land, work crews installed fences at an 11-acre site at the Port of Oakland, which sits southeast of the Bay Bridge. Authorities readied flights and buses to whisk the passengers from the ship to military bases or their home countries for mandatory two-week quarantines.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said she was satisfied with the safety measures being taken by state and federal officials for port workers, local emergency crews and the surrounding community.
“We are very glad to play a role, which is the right thing to do to welcome these passengers into safety and to release them from what had to have been a terrifying experience of being trapped on this ship,” Schaaf said Monday afternoon after an event on homelessness in Sacramento.
Some Oakland residents agreed. Carol Stone, 68, a retired foundation manager, was glad the city opened its port. “They need to get off the ship and get some medical attention,” she said.
What are foreign countries doing in preparation?
Canada has dispatched a plan to pick up its passengers. Six Canadians who were on the Grand Princess from Feb. 11 to 21 were confirmed Monday to have the virus. Overall, 237 Canadian passengers are on board the Grand Princess, according to Global Affairs Canada. International passengers not needing medical attention are expected to disembark after California passengers leave the boat.
What will happen to U.S. passengers after the ship docks?
The first focus will be on passengers with immediate medical needs, Newsom said Sunday.
Once they have disembarked, federal staff will begin off-loading the 962 California residents aboard. “It is expected that these actions will take the great part of the day,” the OES said in its statement.
Most California residents will be taken to Travis Air Force Base in nearby Solano County. That is the same base where authorities recently held passengers from the Diamond Princess 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.
On Tuesday, Newsom said that Texas officials originally told authorities they would only receive Texans at Lackland Air Force Base, but that they seemed to be “softening” in that position.
“Certainly our point of view [is] that as Americans, we all should do our fair share, and I’m grateful that Lackland is being opened up in Texas, but we hope they can broaden to help with logistical operations here in the state of California to ease our efforts in the state,” Newsom said.
What will happen to crew on the ship?
A statement from OES on Monday said the crew will be quarantined aboard the ship. If crew members are in need of more acute medical care, “they will be transferred to an appropriate medical facility in California,” the statement said, adding that the cruise ship will stay in the Port of Oakland for the duration of disembarking passengers.
However, on Tuesday, that plan seemed to be shifting. Newsom said crew members will potentially be repatriated to their home countries, but that’s a work in progress, with the U.S. State Department and foreign governments involved. A large number of the crew members are from the Philippines, he said.
How long will the ship be in Oakland?
The vessel will depart Oakland “as soon as possible,” state authorities said, and will remain elsewhere for the duration of the crew’s quarantine. It is not known what will happen to the ship or crew after that.
How are passengers handling the coming days and weeks?
“This is all going to be a very new experience, going to a military base in Oakland, getting on what I assume is not going to be a commercial airline or ... going someplace I’ve never been,” said Debbie Loftus, a passenger from Wisconsin, on the ship with elderly parents.
She said she wasn’t sure “what the accommodations are going to be like and how long we’re going to be held there. Yes, it’s a little bit anxiety-producing but we’ll handle it minute by minute.”
Karen Spoon, a Canadian passenger who was repatriated Monday night on a charter flight from Oakland, said she is doing well at a military base near Ontario.
“We have a window room. Yay,” she said. “It’s like a hotel room.”
Will passengers have to pay for this cruise?
No. Earlier, Princess Cruises announced it would offer a full refund to everyone on board and a credit for a future cruise.
How is the government addressing future cruise issues?
Newsom said Tuesday that his office’s legal team was reviewing what restrictions, if any, the state can place on cruise ships during the coronavirus outbreak. He urged older people and residents with medical conditions to not go on cruise ships.
“The cruise ship industry owes it to their own self-interests to advance very aggressive protocols and new requirements at peril of that industry collapsing,” he said.
Staff writers Erin B. Logan, Rong-Gong Lin II , Maura Dolan and Sacramento Bureau Chief John Myers contributed to this report.