FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. >> The Regal Princess cruise ship was held off Florida’s coast today awaiting test results for the new coronavirus on two crew members, then cleared hours later to enter port, authorities said.
The Regal Princess was originally to have docked this morning in Port Everglades but was instead sailing up and down the coast. The crew members in question had transferred more than two weeks ago from the Grand Princess cruise ship in California where nearly two dozen on board have tested positive for the virus, including 19 crew members, according to Princess Cruises.
The cruise line said in a statement earlier today that the crew members of the Regal Princess did not exhibit respiratory symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and were well beyond the advised 14-day virus incubation period.
Based on that, “these crew members should not pose any risks to the health and welfare of anyone aboard Regal Princess,” the statement added.
The Coast Guard said it delivered testing kits to the Regal Princess this morning and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a “no-sail order” for the ship. Test results can take up to 48 hours.
A Port of Everglades spokeswoman, Ellen Kennedy, said later today that the CDC had cleared the ship to enter port. She told The Associated Press by email that the ship would be docking at a cruise terminal in the port about 10 p.m. today.
Kennedy released no information on the virus test results.
The stalled ship came a day after the governor’s office confirmed that two people who tested positive for the new coronavirus have died in the state, the first deaths on the East Coast attributed to the outbreak in the U.S.
Helen Aguirre Ferre, a spokeswoman for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, confirmed the deaths on Twitter, writing the individuals were in their 70s and had traveled overseas.
DeSantis met with Vice President Mike Pence, Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott and heads of the cruise line industry on Saturday to devise better ways for cruise lines to deal with the outbreak. Cruise line heads agreed to enhanced entry and exit screenings, to establish shipboard testing for the virus, along with new quarantine standards established by the CDC.
They also asked the industry to devise and fund a new plan on how to transport any cruise passengers who contract the disease. Some of the new protocol was expected to start taking effect early this week.
The cruise lines “need to take action to make sure they are keeping their passengers safe and do not end up putting undo burden on federal resources,” DeSantis said.
It is unclear how many people are on board the Regal Princess, but the cruise line’s website said it has a capacity of 3,560 guests.
The vessel’s next cruise scheduled to leave Port Everglades for a seven-day Caribbean trip was also canceled. The cruise line said guests would receive a full refund and offered $300 reimbursement for one night’s hotel costs.
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