Cruise ship passengers from Carson City allowed to return
Gov. Steve Sisolak and the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday announced contingency plans with local health authorities in Nevada to bring the passengers from the Grand Princess cruise ship home under certain conditions ensuring their own health and that of other Nevadans.
The ship had been floating off the California coast since Thursday when results first showed 21 tested positive with the coronavirus. Forty-nine among 3,500 guests are Nevadans, and all are asymptomatic, according to the DHHS release.
Originally, plans were to send the Nevadan families to military bases in Texas or Georgia with other passengers, but Sisolak contacted the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Defense asking whether any military facilities in Nevada could be made available to monitor returning passengers instead, and the federal government responded it would not be an option. The contingency plans instead allow the repatriation to occur sooner.
The following conditions will be applied before passengers can return: Passengers must be asymptomatic; they must be tested for the COVID-19 strain prior to boarding a secure flight back to Nevada so test results will be available for local health authorities; any passenger who refuses testing will remain under the supervision of the appropriate federal agency; passengers must be returned to the state in an isolated manner limiting exposure to the general public; and the passengers will remain under the supervision of their local health authority for the 14-day period immediately upon returning to Nevada.
The DHHS states the federal government accepted these conditions and that it would provide air transportation to all 49 asymptomatic Nevadans. These families will not be entering buildings of any commercial airport within the state, but they will be required to sign a declaration of self-quarantine upon arrival, ensuring they would remain physically separate from others for 14 days within their own homes.
Travel from California to Nevada also is being arranged by the federal government, and the press release indicated the Nevadan families would be updated as needed.
Carson City resident Steve Waclo, traveling with his wife Zita, was amongst the families on the Grand Princess. He commented via e-mail to the Appeal Tuesday that “all conditions seem reasonable and appropriate.” Waclo e-mailed regularly throughout the weekend that they remained comfortable and well-fed on the cruise but bored as they were confined to their cabin for days, able to enjoy fresh air on the balcony.
The Grand Princess cruise ship arrived in the Port of Oakland Monday with more than 2,000 passengers disembarking subject to medical exams then waiting to be sent to different quarantine sites at various locations.
The Associated Press reported about two dozen in serious need of medical care were removed from the ship first, but it wasn’t known how many were infected with the COVID-19 virus.
Reports from CBS showed military and medical personnel were available to help offload and transport the most symptomatic passengers who had been confined to the Princess Cruises ship due to the COVID-19 strain for several weeks with passengers expressing they were eager to finally depart the ship.
The ship carried 21 who tested positive, including 19 crew members, with the coronavirus and had at least 1,000 Californians to be quarantined at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield and Miramar Air Station in San Diego.
As of Sunday, the Nevada Appeal also came into contact with Carson City resident Laura Dunn who was on the cruise with her sister, brother-in-law and their son. Dunn shared in a Facebook chat that the captain informed passengers that disembarkation would take “several days.”
“We are being well taken care of,” Dunn said. “We had crafts and puzzles delivered daily and they offer exercise videos and today a wonderful church service via television. We have been given many movies as well as live news and other stations.”
But Dunn said they had been awaiting updates as they remained confined to their two-family suite, where they had access to a balcony.
“The thing that bothers us most is the ‘not knowing’ when or what is going to happen to us,’” Dunn said Sunday. “Spirits are good.”
While families mostly were confined to their own cabins, however, Dunn did report after noon Sunday, guests finally were able to rotate onto the decks for fresh air and exercise, with families from inside cabins allowed to go out first.
On Tuesday, Nevadan families received an e-mailed statement from Sisolak expressing pleasure that they would be returning home rather than being transported to a military base in another state.
“My office has been working around the clock with federal agencies and state and local health authorities to coordinate your return home in the most efficient and safe manner,” Sisolak said in his e-mail.
He committed to advocating on their behalf in Washington, D.C.
“I recognize that the lack of information and misinformation has resulted in considerable anxiety and frustration,” he wrote. “Your congressional delegation, state and local health authorities and I strongly share your frustration. Please know that we have all been working extremely hard to protect your health and safety as well as that of all Nevadans.”
Princess Cruises, owner of the Grand-class cruise ship, announced to its passengers Monday morning that it would provide a full refund of cruise fares to all guests in a letter from president Jan Swartz sent to passengers.
Waclo provided the Nevada Appeal a copy of his letter that stated the refund would include “cruise fare, roundtrip Princess Air, Princess Vacation Protection, pre- or post-Cruise Plus hotels and transfers, pre-paid shore excursions, gratuities and other items purchased through Princess, and taxes, fees and port expenses” guest made in their original form of payment.
Those who also purchased air, transfers or pre- or post-cruise hotels separate of the cruise also would receive refunds for their expenses, according to the letter, and guests were provided with a link to a claim form to submit receipts at a later time.
Charges for onboard folios would be cleared except for jewelry and fine arts and guests would receive a future cruise credit equal to 100 percent of the cruise paid for their trip.
“I appreciate how difficult this has been for everyone, and particularly thank you for your understanding and kindness toward our hard-working crewmembers,” Swartz states in the letter.
AP reported 1,100 crew members would be quarantined and treated on the Grand Princess, to be docked elsewhere after the passengers were to be unloaded, according to California Gov. Gavin Newsom.
The coronavirus to date has infected more than 700 in the United States and killed at least 27, with most coming from a nursing home in Seattle.