Should cruise ship with sick patients be allowed to dock in Fort Lauderdale?

Local officials discuss whether to allow a Holland America cruise ship with sick passengers and crew to dock at Port Everglades.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Local officials are debating whether to allow a cruise ship with sick passengers to dock in Fort Lauderdale.

Holland America Line’s MS Zaandam cruise ship is on its way to Port Everglades in hopes of docking there next week. More than 40 guests and crew have reported influenza-like illness symptoms, leading for calls to ban the ship from docking in an area already dealing with spread of the new coronavirus.

“We don’t want to further endanger the people of Broward County," said Dale Holness, the county’s mayor. "We have to be clear — What is the status of the folks on board? — and they have to declare it to us.”

County commissioners Michael Udine and Mark Bogen suggested turning the ship away at a special meeting held Tuesday.

Commissioner Barbara Sharief said, “I think it would be quite inhumane of us to say you can’t dock here.”

The cruise ship departed March 7 from Buenos Aires, Argentina, with 586 crew members and 1,243 guests, whose vacations are now limited to their rooms.

“No one has been off the ship since March 14 in Punta Arenas,” a Holland America Line spokesperson wrote in a statement released on Sunday.

The voyage was supposed to end March 21 in San Antonio, Chile, but the South American country turned them away. Before continuing their voyage to Fort Lauderdale, the Panama Canal could deny the ship entry.

According to Cruise Mapper, the ship was west of Peru early Tuesday morning. If it all goes as planned by Holland America Line, it will arrive at Port Everglades March 30, according to the statement. But Cruise Mapper and other ship tracking services showed its Port Everglades arrival to be April 7.

The ship’s crew “is following the response protocols that have been developed in coordination with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” the statement said.

Some of the first COVID-19 cases reported in Broward County had links to workers who were in contact with cruise ship guests arriving at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale. Public health officials report 17 people have died in Florida of COVID-19.

In Broward, the CDC has confirmed 263 COVID-19 cases, including three assisted living facility residents who died of COVID-19, according to the Florida Department of Health. Two COVID-19 patients died in neighboring Palm Beach County.

About the Authors:

Andrew Perez is a South Florida native who joined the Local 10 News team in May 2014.

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.