Cruise ship held off California coast for coronavirus testing

SAN FRANCISCO (AP)  —
Scrambling to keep the coronavirus at bay, officials ordered a cruise ship with
3,500 people aboard to stay back from the California coast Thursday until
passengers and crew can be tested, after a traveler from its previous voyage
died of the disease and at least three others became infected.

A military helicopter lowered test kits onto the 951-foot Grand
Princess by rope as the vessel lay at anchor off the coast of San Francisco,
and authorities said the results would be available on Friday. Princess Cruises
said fewer than 100 people aboard had been identified for testing.

“The ship will not come on shore until we appropriately
assess the passengers,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said.

The precaution was prompted by the death of a
Sacramento-area man who succumbed to the coronavirus after he had been on an
earlier sailing of the ship, in February. Two other passengers from that voyage
have been hospitalized with the virus in Northern California, and a Canadian
man in his 60s who sailed aboard the ship last month tested positive after
returning home to an area outside Toronto, officials said.

Princess said that no cases of the virus had been confirmed
among those still on the ship. But dozens of passengers have had flu-like
symptoms over the past two weeks or so, said Mary Ellen Carroll, executive
director of San Francisco’s Department of Emergency Management.

“Once we have results from the tests,” she said, authorities
“will determine the best location for the ship to berth.”

Video from the California National Guard showed the
helicopter approaching the bow of the ship and lowering three helmeted
paratroopers into an empty area with a swimming pool with what appeared to be a
freezer chest and other items.

The helicopter was scheduled to retrieve the kits later
Thursday for delivery to a lab in Richmond, Calif., authorities said. The test
results could be processed in a few hours.

The ship was returning to San Francisco after visiting
Hawaii. Some of the passengers remained on board after sailing on its previous
voyage to the Mexican ports of Puerto Vallarta, Manzanillo, Mazatlan and Cabo
San Lucas.

A passenger from the Mexico voyage, Judy Cadiz of Lodi,
Calif., said she and her husband became ill afterward but did not give 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 said Thursday. “I
really hope that we’re negative so nobody got infected.”

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