What is already known about this topic?
Cruise ships are often settings for outbreaks of infectious diseases because of their closed environment and contact between travelers from many countries.
What is added by this report?
More than 800 cases of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases occurred during outbreaks on three cruise ship voyages, and cases linked to several additional cruises have been reported across the United States. Transmission occurred across multiple voyages from ship to ship by crew members; both crew members and passengers were affected; 10 deaths associated with cruise ships have been reported to date.
What are the implications for public health practice?
Outbreaks of COVID-19 on cruise ships pose a risk for rapid spread of disease beyond the voyage. Aggressive efforts are required to contain spread. All persons should defer all cruise travel worldwide during the COVID-19 pandemic.
REPORTING FROM MIAMI – The death toll from the Coral Princess docked at PortMiami has risen to three. Upon docking, one patient was quickly transported to the hospital and that patient has now died, leaving stranded passengers anxious as they await clearances that will allow them to return home.
Officials from Miami-Dade County stated that six people were moved from ship to local hospitals in the area on Saturday. And one of those who was transported via private ambulance died at Larkin Community Hospital in Hialeah.
Julie Maa posted on her social media that the third death on board the Coral Princess was in fact her father, Wilson Maa. Maa had waited hours before he was transported to the hospital for treatment, and now US Representative Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, D-Florida, has requested an investigation into the events leading to Maa’s death.
Additionally, Miami-Dade County’s mayor, Carlos Gimenez, stated that their county investigators are also looking into Maa’s death and possible reasoning as to why fire rescue was available yet never got the call.
Gimenez said, “We have no record of anybody trying to access 911” … “There’s a rescue truck right on the port. They should have just called 911, let our paramedics assess the situation, and then, our paramedics would do the right thing, and so I don’t know why that protocol was broken.”
Princess Cruises’ official statement was that two others had died on board the ship before its arrival in South Florida.
As the need for hospitalization increased, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue units assisted with the transport of eight more patients to local hospitals on Sunday, making a total of seventeen passengers who have now been taken to South Florida hospitals for care. Commenting on the current situation, Gimenez stated, “We continue to work at the Port of Miami to offload passengers and crew and get them to their home as quickly as possible while also helping some very sick patients get the medical care they need to save their lives.”
In recent weeks, local residents and Coral Princess passengers alike have become accustomed to seeing ambulances leave the ship’s dock terminal. For some the wait has seemed extensive. Kathleen O’Neill of Raleigh, North Carolina stated, “I don’t know what we’re gonna do” … “We are trapped on this boat. We’re just waiting.”
O’Neill’s patience is wearing thin after being stranded on board for over a month now and counting. By her assessment, more than 215 Americans may still be on board the Coral Princess. O’Neill responded to her situation, “I sit here with my bag packed and by the door. I anxiously await somebody calling me or putting a note in my mailbox that says, ‘it’s your turn.’”
Cruise line officials reported Monday that over 270 passengers still remain on-board.
O’Neill admitted that she is certainly more nervous after learning there have now been multiple confirmed coronavirus cases as well as three deaths. She said, “I’m 64, my husband is 71. I do not want to die on this ship” … “We haven’t had any information given to us since yesterday.”
The ill-fated Coral Princess cruise departed Chile on March 5th and was slated to end its voyage in Argentina on March 19th, but the coronavirus cases forced their hand and the ship docked early at PortMiami on Saturday, thousands of miles away from its intended destination.
O’Neill shared her feelings regarding the unknown factors, “There’s really no sense of what’s going on or when we are going to be allowed off” … “and, to be honest with you, it’s extremely disconcerting to see ambulance after ambulance going away.” Fortunately for O’Neill, she has yet to develop any symptoms of COVID-19, and she said that she will continue to display the paper signs she makes from the safety of her balcony. The signs give us a glimpse into the frustration that passengers feel in isolation. O’Neill discussed the signs, providing that one sign simply stated, ‘Test me,’ while others professed, ‘I’m not sick,’ and ‘Let me go.’”
For now, some passengers are forced to stay in quarantine on the ship. However, some of those from select regions as well as those who have now been cleared medically are getting ready to finally head home, an arrival destination they have certainly been hoping for through these anxiety-inducing weeks.
Passengers have been seen boarding buses at the terminal en route to the airport where they were likely to board flights to California domestically, as well as international flights to the United Kingdom and Australia. But due to a recent change in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) policy, these hopeful travelers are not being allowed to leave the cruise ships to fly commercially, and will be mandated to take charter flights instead, thus delaying their journey home yet again.
These changes affected the O’Neills, who stated that friends were not even allowed to drive down to pick them up at the ship’s port. O’Neill stated that her husband was contacting friends in North Carolina who are private pilots to see if any were willing to come and take them back home.
In statements from county officials on Sunday night, Jackson Health System was said to be inserting some of their medical personnel into the ship for treatment and care. Further, crews have now replaced the ship’s critical oxygen supply.
For families like the O’Neills, they just want it all to be over, and for their lives to be returned to them. O’Neill said, “To be so tantalizingly close to leaving and to just be trapped here,” as she expressed her frustration and disappointment over the extended port stay. It’s clear the time spent has been tough, and has taken a toll on weary vacationers who long for the comforts of home.
As it stands currently, any passengers and crew members who show symptoms but do not need hospitalization must remain in residence on the Coral Princess until they have recovered and meet the requirements for disembarkation.
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has brought devastating illness, confusion, uncertainty, and death to communities around the globe. Despite 24/7 coverage on the impacts and effects of the virus, it is still unclear to many people exactly when and how the virus emerged, and whether anything could have been done to stop or prevent the spread early on.
As of April 17, 2020, over two million cases and nearly 150,000 deaths have been reported worldwide. The gravity of the situation for those with affected family members and friends is only increased by the barrage of information in the media, much of which seems to change daily. With that said, there are a few things that seem clear: cruise ships were the source of several early cases of the illness, and victims deserve clarity and justice on the matter.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), passengers on at least 20 cruise lines and 27 ships may have been exposed to COVID-19 during February and March. With many of the ships having the capacity to carry over 4,500 individuals, the total number of cases of possible exposure is significant. For nearly half of these ships, the CDC was notified that positive travelers were symptomatic while on the ship; for the other ships, the CDC was notified that travelers became symptomatic and ultimately tested positive within two weeks of disembarking.
In February, several cruise ships were docked for a period of time in response to news of the spread of the virus, including the Diamond Princess cruise ship to which nearly 700 cases were eventually traced back. The Grand Princess cruise ship docked in Oakland, CA for several days after many people onboard were confirmed to have COVID-19. Ultimately, over 100 cases were tied back to this ship, and two deaths were confirmed.
In response to the dangerous COVID-19 outbreak on multiple cruise ships, Cruise Lines International Association announced on March 13, 2020 that all travel would be halted for at least 30 days, while the Princess Cruises extended this period of time to at least 60 days. Unfortunately, this decision came too late for many aboard the Coral Princess cruise ship, which left Chile just days prior to that decision, on March 9, 2020. The ship was headed for Argentina and scheduled to arrive on March 19, 2020 when two people lost their lives on the ship due to COVID-19. Following these deaths, the ship docked in Miami, FL on April 4, 2020.
For many, the timeline of events, discoveries, and announcements in the COVID-19 story has been difficult to keep straight. The following may be helpful in understanding more broadly the chronology of events:
January 11, 2020: China reports first coronavirus death
January 21, 2020: The U.S. confirms first case of coronavirus
January 23, 2020: Strict lockdown in Wuhan, China to contain spread of the virus
January 30, 2020: The World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General declared the coronavirus outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC)
February 5, 2020: Diamond Princess cruise docked and passengers quarantined in Yokohama, Japan; all members of crew and travelers given health screen
February 11, 2020: The WHO names the novel coronavirus COVID-19
February 26, 2020: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notifies public of first case of local transmission of COVID-19
February 29, 2020: The first COVID-19 related death occurs in Washington State
March 3, 2020: Requirements for testing removed by CDC; anyone can now be tested for COVID-19
March 13, 2020: President Trump declares national emergency
March 17, 2020: All 50 states have confirmed cases of COVID-19
March 17, 2020: Shelter-in-place order made in Northern California, restricting people from leaving their homes except for essential activities
March 20, 2020: Epicenter of U.S. outbreak determined to be in New York City
March 24, 2020: India imposes complete lockdown
April 2, 2020: Number of cases worldwide hits one million
April 4, 2020: Coral Princess ends travel from Chile to Argentina and docks in Miami, FL after two deaths from COVID-19 occur on board
April 7, 2020: More than 12,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 and nearly 400,000 have tested positive
If you contracted COVID-19 while on a cruise ship and want to know if you are entitled to compensation, you’re not alone. However, the answer is not straightforward, as both international and maritime laws apply to these cases. Furthermore, contractual matters will have to be considered in the assessment of the cruise line’s liability.
Contracts between travelers and cruise lines impose limits and rules for when, why, and where a lawsuit can be filed. While this poses additional challenges for those seeking compensation through legal action, it certainly does not make it impossible. In fact, a couple who fell ill on Grand Princess recently sued the cruise line for one million dollars, stating within the lawsuit that the cruise line “chose to place profits over the safety of its passengers, crew and the general public.” The lawsuit alleges that the cruise line knew that passengers who were on the previous voyage tested positive for COVID-19, yet failed to warn travelers of the risk and failed to screen passengers for illness prior to boarding.
Anyone who is considering filing a lawsuit for similar reasons should act immediately; as more time goes by, it will be increasingly difficult for an attorney to trace the contraction of COVID-19 back to the cruise ship in question, thereby weakening the overall case and lowering the chances of a successful suit.
In addition to explaining the international and maritime laws that may pose difficulty for a particular case at hand, a competent attorney will be able to launch a thorough investigation of the timeline of events and actions of the cruise line in question. Ultimately, the attorney will have to prove that the cruise ship neglected to adequately warn passengers of the risk and take the necessary steps to prevent the spread of the virus.
Don’t hesitate to speak with a knowledgeable and seasoned attorney today about your options for filing a claim. Just like any other instance of personal injury, suffering due to the negligence or mistake of another entity should not go unacknowledged or unaccounted for. You may be dealing with a challenging case, but in the hands of the right attorney, it might also be a successful and lucrative one.
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