A cruise ship with thousands of people on board was being held off the coast of California on Thursday, after officials learned that a patient who died from the coronavirus had previously traveled on the vessel and that some passengers and crew members on board were showing symptoms.
The cruise ship, the Grand Princess, had been returning from a trip in Hawaii and was heading toward San Francisco when officials asked the crew to idle the vessel off the coast. Officials were flying test kits out to the ship, where dozens of people were expected to be tested for the virus, which is spreading worldwide and has led to 11 deaths in the United States.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, who declared a state of emergency for California at a Wednesday evening news conference, said that the tests would be sent back to the shore for results that can now be ascertained “within just a few hours.”
The patient, who died in Placer County, near Sacramento, was the first to die from the coronavirus in California and had traveled on the ship on a round trip from San Francisco to Mexico last month. Of about 2,500 passengers aboard that cruise, about half were Californians, the governor said.
About 60 passengers from that leg stayed on for an additional trip to Hawaii, and were still on board Thursday. Those passengers were to be tested for the virus, officials said.
Eleven passengers and 10 crew members on the ship who were showing symptoms and would also be tested, Gov. Newsom said. “That number may significantly understate” the scope of infection, he said, or “it may indeed be abundance of caution.”
The Grand Princess is owned by Princess Cruises, the same company that runs the Diamond Princess, a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship that was quarantined off the coast of Japan last month. The virus circulated among the more than 3,700 crew members and passengers who were waiting out a two-week isolation period in the port city of Yokohama, with nearly 700 cases identified from that ship.
The company said in a statement that health officials had identified a group of less than 100 passengers and crew members on the Grand Princess to be tested before arriving in San Francisco. No cases on board had been confirmed.
The company was instructing passengers who may have been exposed to stay in their rooms until they were cleared by the ship’s medical staff.
“You may order room service while you wait for the medical screening to be completed,” the cruise line wrote in a letter to passengers, “and we apologize for any inconvenience.”
The person who died in Placer County was the 11th death linked to the virus in the United States, and the first outside of Washington State.
The deaths in the United States are a small fraction of the more than 3,000 deaths that have been traced to the virus worldwide. Many cases of the virus are mild. Early estimates of the coronavirus death rate from China, the epicenter of the outbreak, have been around 2 percent. On average, seasonal flu strains kill about 0.1 percent of people who become infected.
At least 54 people have been treated for the coronavirus in California this year, the most of any state.
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