Carson City couple among quarantined passengers on cruise ship
Two Carson City residents are among more than 3,500 aboard the Princess Cruises’ Grand Princess ship about 50 miles off the California coast as of Friday waiting to hear on results from coronavirus tests.
Reports came out this week of the death of a California man who previously traveled the Grand Princess last month and had contracted coronavirus. The ship, carrying dozens who traveled with the passenger who was the first to die from the virus, also held at least two who tested positive with COVID-19, according to CNN reports.
Passengers have remained in quarantine in their cabins, including husband and wife Steve and Zita Waclo, who set sail on the Grand Princess Feb. 21 along with others returning from a Mexican cruise heading to Hawaii the same as the Waclos were.
Steve Waclo described on Thursday to the Nevada Appeal via e-mail they were “cautiously optimistic” about their circumstances with about 100 individuals who showed symptoms of coronavirus.
“Only the 100 or so passengers and staff who exhibited symptoms were tested,” Waclo wrote. “They were all among those from the immediately previous Hawaii cruise who elected to remain aboard (except staff, who had no choice) and redo the Hawaii cruise. An unknown number of the 100 or so were exhibiting flu like symptoms and were isolated as soon as they presented, while the remaining were isolated as a precaution. Captain has emphasized no known cases aboard as of 6 p.m., but without test results, he cannot say that with any authority.”
The California Air National Guard delivered test kits by helicopter to the ship Thursday and medical professionals collected at least 45 samples from passengers who exhibited symptoms. The samples were transported to a lab near San Francisco, according to CNN. As of Friday afternoon, the Washington Post reported 21 samples tested positive of 46 that had been swab-tested. Nineteen of those were crew members, according to Fox News.
Waclo said passengers remain in quarantine in the meantime. He said he and his wife feel fortunate they are staying in an exterior cabin with access to the outdoors.
According to CNN, the total 3,500 aboard includes 2,422 and 1,111 crew members, and Waclo said the demographic primarily consists of a senior population with some younger people aboard.
He also said room service with meals began with Thursday’s dinner.
“To date, staff has been efficient and proactive with special food service protocols in place,” Waclo wrote. “Regular service terminated at the buffet and restaurants at 2 [p.m.] and at the last serving, we could not take food from the dispensing area…gloved staff followed our ‘point’ and put food on plates for us. Also, very close attention and hand washing stations, [ensuring] all were conforming with 20 second scrub.”
On Friday morning in a call to the Appeal, Waclo said the captain had announced they were still waiting on test results from the facility in the Bay Area. Staff continued checking in with guests every three hours.
“We are certainly not in the dark,” he said. “Initially, there were people we hadn’t been in touch with, like family. We didn’t know very much information ourselves and found out later we were on the national news.”
Waclo elaborated he and Zita were in the target population for the sample testing, noting they’re both older than 70, with the average age for COVID-19 morbidities at 81. He noted they’re in excellent health and not concerned as far as likelihood for contracting any coronavirus symptoms.
“We’re not smug, but we’re both comfortable that we’ll be able to weather anything here,” he said. “We’ve hit the library hard here and grabbed any books we could find.”
The cruise line, equipped with flat screens, also granted the guests additional movies and news to watch during this time. Waclo said he and his wife had been following CNBC and MSN, as well as local news reports that a man in Reno tested positive for the coronavirus causing Huffaker Elementary School’s closure Friday.
“There’s nothing real exciting here,” he said. “We’re just waiting for results.”
In a news conference Friday, Vice President Mike Pence said the cruise ship would be taken to a non-commercial port for the testing of all crew and passengers. He said crew members and passengers likely would remain quarantined on the ship.
There have been no recent updates as to where or when the ship will dock, though guests will not be allowed to disembark until test results are received, Princess Cruises states in a CNN report.