SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The number of Northern California residents and former passengers who contracted the coronavirus on a February cruise to Mexico aboard the Grand Princess grew to at least 13 Saturday with a new cases being reported in Santa Cruz County, Fresno, Florida and involving a special needs school staffer in Chicago.
Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence announced on Friday that 19 crew members and two passengers on the current cruise have tested positive for the coronavirus. He said the ship would dock at a “non-commercial port” over the weekend and the more than 2,000 passengers would be allowed to leave the boat.
“We have developed a plan which will be implemented this weekend to bring the ship into a non-commercial port,” Pence said. “All passengers and crew will be tested for the coronavirus. Those that need to be quarantined will be quarantined. Those that require additional medical attention will receive it…We are taking all measures necessary to see to the health of the Americans and those involved on the Grand Princess. And just as importantly to protect the health of the American public and prevent the spread of the disease.”
While the current cruise has raised plenty of concern, local health officials were also dealing with coronavirus-related health issues that have arisen from the ship’s previous round-trip voyage from San Francisco to Mexico on Feb. 11-21.
Hundreds of Northern California residents were on the popular cruise and so far nine have been diagnosed with the virus; at least one former passenger has died.
Among those on the cruise was Margie Hartle, who said when she got off the ship many people were coughing. She can’t understand why all the passengers who were on the ship have not been tested.
“We were ground zero and you have 2500 people walking out — right now in Sacramento, up in the foothills, whatever that might be carriers,” she said. “What is going on…Just for my sanity (I would like to be tested) because I don’t know if I’m a carrier or not.”
Hartle said on her bus ride back to the Sacramento area there were several people coughing.
“I was sitting there and a lot of people were coughing,” the 69-year-old said. “I thought this is kind of unusual because the air conditioning hasn’t been on that long. So I covered my mouth.,..They (the people ill) were my age — 50-plus and up. And I thought — ‘A lot of people are coughing a lot…Why is everyone coughing?'”
Dr. Christopher Braden, Deputy Director of the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said there was “a cluster” of potential coronavirus patients from that voyage.
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“There are a number of other people who have been identified with some type of symptoms that are undergoing testing now,” he said at a news conference earlier this week, announcing the death of the 71-year-old adult male Rocklin resident who had been on the boat. “That information will be updated as we know more.”
“There is a cluster of illness associated with the cruise,” he continued, adding that investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were attempting to track all the passengers on the ill-fated cruise.
On Saturday, health officials announced a woman who works closely with “medically fragile” special needs students at a Chicago Public School has tested positive for the coronavirus. She had recently traveled on the Grand Princess cruise ship.
She is a special education classroom assistant at Vaughn Occupational High School in Chicago, which serves children with special needs, who “are medically fragile,” CPS CEO, Dr, Janice Jackson said. Classes were canceled at the school next week and the building will be sterlized, officials said.
On Saturday, Santa Cruz County health officials said a local resident, who had been on the Mexico cruise, was quarantined at home recovering from the virus.
Santa Cruz Health Services Agency spokesman Jason Hoppin said his department was “conducting a thorough investigation to identify any potential exposures that may have occurred.”
Multiple other Santa Cruz County residents who also traveled on the cruise ship last month who were now being “actively monitored” and under self-quarantines.
“We are taking this situation seriously and are taking steps necessary to protect the health and safety of Santa Cruz County residents,” county Health Officer Gail Newel said.
On Thursday night, Placer County officials said they have three new cases involving Grand Princess passengers. Two had mild symptoms that have already resolved; the third currently has mild symptoms. All three are isolated at home and none required hospitalization.
Meanwhile, health officials in Sonoma County confirmed their second case of presumptive coronavirus infection in a patient who was also on the Grand Princess cruise.
The Sonoma County Department of Health Services said the patient, along with another patient from the cruise ship, were in isolation rooms at a hospital.
The department received a list of 78 Sonoma County residents who were on the Grand Princess cruise between Feb. 11-21, DHS spokesman Rohish Lal said.
Twenty-five of the 78 people took the shuttle back to Sonoma County and two of them tested positive for the virus. The Department of Health Services was contacting the shuttle passengers to make them aware of the positive cases.
Anxiety was high among the ship’s other former passengers.
On Thursday, San Bruno officials closed that city’s senior center as a precaution after they learned that three former passengers, who had been on the Mexico cruise, had recently visited the senior center and assisted in the lunch program. All three individuals were advised to self-quarantine at home.
Another passenger from the voyage, Judy Cadiz of Lodi, said she and her husband became ill afterward but had not given it much thought until learning a fellow traveler had died of the virus. Now, they cannot get a straight answer about how to get tested, she said.
With Mark Cadiz, 65, running a fever, the couple worries not only about themselves, but about the possibility that — if they contracted the infection — they could have passed it on to others.
“They’re telling us to stay home, but nobody told me until yesterday to stay home. We were in Sacramento, we were in Martinez, we were in Oakland. We took a train home from the cruise,” Judy Cadiz saidy. “I really hope that we’re negative so nobody got infected.”