The Coast Guard helicopters dropped off sample kits to the ship this morning, and some passengers are being confined to their rooms, but many reportedly continue milling about the ship.
The New York Times got in touch with several passengers who are currently on the Grand Princess, which stopped in Hawaii but arrived back to California — off the coast of it anyway — two days ahead of schedule after the reports of coronavirus-infected passengers on the ship's previous voyage to Mexico, one of whom has died. The ship arrived back near the Bay Area early Thursday, and public health officials say that after testing of some 80 people is complete, a decision will be made about how and where to potentially quarantine passengers, and where to allow the ship to land.
Bill Pearce, 54, tells the Times that passengers are starting to get "kind of snappy" as the day of the ship's planned docking in San Francisco approaches. The ship had been scheduled to arrive Saturday March 7 and then depart again on a cruise to Hawaii. That second Hawaiian cruise has been cancelled.
Pearce also said he'd stocked up on beer and cheese from one of the ship's bars, and was then going to sequester himself in his stateroom.
Another passenger, Mark Pace, tells the Times that food is being served buffet style in order to decrease interactions between waitstaff and passengers, and the ship's casino and entertainment rooms all remain open. Only the sick people on board, and 62 passengers who had continued on from the Mexico cruise, have been kept isolated.
Pace further says he was shocked that no one was taking people's temperatures or doing any real health screenings when they boarded the boat — as he put it, referring apparently to forms that people filled out, "People that spent thousands of dollars on a cruise are not going to answer truthfully on their health form."
21 people — 11 passengers and 10 crew members — were reportedly showing flu-like symptoms as of Wednesday, and one crew member had already been medically evacuated from the ship in Hawaii. A total of 2,400 passengers and 1,100 crew members are on the ship, waiting to find out where they will be sent. Sample kits from those onboard are being ferried in batches by helicopter to a state testing lab in Richmond, and results should be in by tomorrow.
Meanwhile on Thursday, SF is on high alert as the first two cases of the virus have been confirmed among city residents. One patient, a woman in her 40s, is said to be in fair condition, while another, a man in his 90s, is in serious condition. Both are in isolation at different city hospitals that are not being named.
At the same press conference where the two SF cases were revealed, the city's director of the Department of Emergency Management, Mary Ellen Carroll, explained that the CDC and the state were working with the city to decide where the ship will ultimately get to berth — and San Francisco is one of several locations being considered.
Photo: Sheila Jellison