A Carnival ship carrying a health care worker who may have handled lab samples from the deceased Ebola-infected man in Dallas is skipping a planned stop in Cozumel Friday.
In a statement, Doral-based Carnival Cruise Lines said the Carnival Magic had been waiting off the coast of Cozumel to dock Friday morning, but still had not received clearance by noon. The cruise line decided to send the ship back to its home port in Galveston "to ensure the ship arrives there on time on Sunday morning."
"We greatly regret that this situation, which was completely beyond our control, precluded the ship from making its scheduled visit to Cozumel and the resulting disappointment it has caused our guests," the statement said.
The U.S. Department of State said early Friday that the worker from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital was in voluntary isolation on the ship. The unidentified passenger, a lab supervisor at the hospital, has shown no symptoms of the disease.
She boarded the Carnival Magic in Galveston on Sunday, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was only requiring employees to self-monitor.
On Wednesday afternoon, CDC officials notified Carnival Cruise Lines that one of its passengers had been in the lab at the Dallas hospital with the Ebola testing samples.
"At no point in time has the individual exhibited any symptoms or signs of infection and it has been 19 days since she was in the lab with the testing samples," spokeswoman Jennifer de la Cruz wrote in an email. "She is deemed by the CDC to be very low risk."
The decision to isolate the passenger was made "in an extreme abundance of caution," de la Cruz wrote.
"We are in close contact with the CDC and at this time it has been determined that the appropriate course of action is to simply keep the guest in isolation on board," she said.
The ship stopped in Belize Thursday, and all passengers except the lab supervisor and her spouse were allowed to disembark.
"The U.S. government did attempt to make arrangements to fly the guests home from Belize but that effort was unsuccessful," de la Cruz wrote.
According to the State Department, the supervisor had no direct contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, who died last week, but may have had contact with specimens collected from him. Two nurses who treated Duncan have since tested positive for Ebola.
"The employee has been self-monitoring, including daily temperature checks, since Oct. 6, and has not had a fever or demonstrated any symptoms of illness," the State Department said in a statement.
Passengers on the Carnival Magic are being given a credit of $200 per person to their shipboard accounts and a 50 percent discount on a future cruise.
CARNIVAL’S STATEMENT ON THEIR POLICY
None of Carnival Cruise Lines’ ships visit the region where Ebola cases are originating nor do our ships call in any countries with Level 3 CDC Travel Heath Notices. Any passengers or crew who have visited or traveled through Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea within 21 days of a cruise departure date will be denied boarding.
Additionally, all guests sailing with us must answer a series of health screening questions during embarkation and, if deemed necessary, will be asked to submit to further medical screening prior to being allowed to board. All cruise lines continue to monitor the situation closely, along with our colleagues in the rest of the travel industry. The cruise industry is in close, frequent contact with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) for updates and guidance.