OAKLAND (CBS SF) — When Vice President Mike Pence announced the positive coronavirus tests for crew and passengers on the Grand Princess, he said the ship would head toward a “non-commercial port” on the West Coast. So why is the ship slated to dock and disembark its more than 2,000 passengers at the second-largest commercial port on the West Coast?

Over the past 24 hours, local, state and federal officials have be trying to explain why the Port of Oakland was selected and quell fears of local residents about the arrival of at least 21 people who have contracted the illness on the boat.

Speaking via the ship’s public-address system, the captain told the more than 2,000 passengers that their extended, 15-day voyage would be ending within hours in Oakland on Sunday. Princess Cruise lines quickly followed with an email statement confirming those plans.

Mayor Libby Schaaf at March 8 News Conference in Oakland


Then, just 10 minutes later, a second email arrived. The plan had already suffered a setback, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had delayed the arrival until Monday.

“CDC has just informed us that further modifications of the plan are necessary and will impact the arrival of the ship,” cruise officials said in the email. “The ship will now arrive in the Port of Oakland on Monday, time TBD.”

After considering several “non-commercial port” destinations for the ship, it was decided Saturday that the busy Port of Oakland would be the best choice.

Dr. John T. Redd, Center for Disease Control at March 8 News Conference in Oakland


“The Port of Oakland was selected as the best site for the ship to disembark,” California Office Of Emergency Services officials said in a release. “There are limited docks that will be able to dock a ship of that size and the Port of Oakland location was the easiest to seal off, securely move passengers toward their isolation destinations and protect the safety of the public.”

They added that the passengers will not be able to simply walk away once the ship docks.

“Oakland’s role in this operation is to support our state and federal authorities as they conduct a critical public health mission to help those impacted by the COVID-19 virus,” said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. “I appreciate Governor Newsom’s leadership and have been assured no one will be quarantined in Oakland, nor will any passengers be released into the general public.”

Oakland’s location near Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield also likely played a role in the decision. Travis was the destination for passengers from the Diamond Princess airlift from Japan last month. It has a CDC-trained staff to give the Grand Princess passengers initial testing.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary California HHS at March 8 News Conference in Oakland


The facility can also house passengers for a 14-day quarantine and its airport facility can handle flights to send passengers to other military bases across the country.

Federal officials with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services detailed what the debarkation process will entail and it could stretch across several days.

“Passengers will be transferred to federal military installations for medical screening, COVID-19 testing, and a 14-day quarantine,” federal health officials said. “Nearly 1,000 passengers who are California residents will complete the mandatory quarantine at Travis Air Force Base and Miramar Naval Air Station, and residents of other states will complete the mandatory quarantine at Joint Base San Antonio Lackland in Texas or Dobbins Air Force Base in Georgia.”

“Throughout the quarantine, passengers will be monitored for symptoms of COVID-19.”