SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — As the Grand Princess remained moored in San Francisco Bay Friday, a coalition of local community groups announced that among the 74 lives claimed regionally by the coronavirus was a crewmember from the Philippines.
The massive cruise ship parked in the Bay has been as much as symbol of the current outbreak as San Francisco’s empty streets and office buildings.
On Saturday, the ship’s 14-day quarantine period will come to an end. The plan has been that the Grand Princess will immediately depart the Bay for an undisclosed destination. While more than half of the 1,000-plus member crew was able to deboard and travel to their hometowns, others have remained onboard.
A coalition of maritime unions and Filipino community leaders were scheduled to hold a news conference Friday to discuss the fate of the remaining crew members.
They sent out a press release saying that a Filipino crewmember died in a local San Francisco hospital after being transferred off of the ship last month.
According to a statement released Health and Human Services officials last week, two passengers who departed the boat have also died as a result of complications from a coronavirus infection.
One of the passengers had been taken directly to a local hospital from the ship, federal officials said, while a second died after being quarantined among the Northern California passengers at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield. Both were men in their 60s.
Few other details about the deaths were released, but federal authorities did say one died on March 21 and the other passed away on March 23. The hospitals where the deaths occurred were not released.
Many of the Grand Princess passengers refused to be tested while in quarantine at four military bases across the United States. Federal officials told USA Today that of the 1,103 passengers who did undergoing testing, 103 tested positive for the virus.
The luxury cruise liner became a symbol for Bay Northern California residents of the growing coronavirus outbreak in early March. It was the seen of two mass infections on back to back cruises. The first was a roundtrip voyage from San Francisco to Mexico from Feb. 11-21. More than two dozen confirmed coronavirus cases — most in Northern California — can be traced to trip. One former passenger — a 71-year-old Rocklin man — became the first California resident to died from the disease.
Another became Marin’s county first fatality from the disease.
As that outbreak grew, the ship was on 15-day round trip from San Francisco to Hawaii. It was immediately recalled, cancelling its final port of call in Mexico.
It arrived in the waters off San Francisco in early March but Gov. Gavin Newsom would not allow it to dock until 45 passengers and crew members who were suffering from flu-like symptoms were tested for the coronavirus. Of those, 19 crew members and two passengers tested positive.
The ship languished off the coast, traveling a looping pattern near the Farallon Islands for several days. Finally, Newsom, federal officials and Oakland city leaders decided to allow it to dock under heavy guard at the Port of Oakland.
Once the Grand Princess docked, passengers were allowed to leave in waves over the next five days. Each passenger was screened for the disease as they departed.
The American passengers were taken to one of four military bases across the country to undergo a federally mandated 14-day quarantine. The foreign passengers were flown back to their native countries.
On Wednesday, the 850 passengers who were quarantined at Travis Air Force base were allowed to return to their California homes after completing their mandatory 14-day stay.
The passengers arrived at the Fairfield site on March 9 and received daily screenings for COVID-19 symptoms and basic medical care for other health conditions. Each passenger was offered COVID-19 testing.
Passengers who tested positive were transferred to other non-military facilities to be taken care of by federal medical staff. If their symptoms worsened during that time, they were transferred to area hospitals.
Those quarantined at Travis AFB received meals and got to engage in “quarantine-appropriate activities,” officials said.
“We can’t overstate how much the cooperation and engagement of our federal, state, and local partners helped us meet this enormous challenge. Supporting the quarantine for these passengers assisted in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and with protecting the American public,” said Dr. Robert Kadlec, HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR).
“A tremendous thank you goes to DoD and their outstanding staff at each installation. We are also grateful for the support received from local hospitals where seriously ill passengers were treated, as well as the healthcare providers who took care of them.”