MIAMI, Fla. – A busy and difficult day at Port Miami where the Coral Princess has now been docked for more than 24 hours.
Some 380 cleared passengers got on board a fleet of buses with their luggage wearing masks and gloves. The original plan was for those travelers heading back to the United Kingdom to be driven straight to the tarmac, but instead they were dropped off at the terminal.
The group was most likely the last to take a commercial flight home.
On board, the captain of the Coral Princess made an announcement to everyone aboard stating that there will be no more travel via commercial flights. That message coming from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who is mandating that cruise passengers not take commercial flights and they must all take charter flights. Something that will be difficult with so many passengers needing to get home.
“As of April 4, 2020, CDC has updated its recommendations to help US cruise ship travelers get home as quickly and safely as possible during the COVID-19 Pandemic. CDC recommends that cruise ship travelers with no symptoms or mild symptoms disembark as quickly and safely as possible at US ports of entry. Cruise line companies must get travelers directly to their homes via chartered or private transportation. Commercial flights and public transportation may not be used.”
993 passengers have been deemed fit to travel after showing no signs or symptoms of anything that could suggest they were ill and needed to be detained. There are 27 guests on board who currently have flu-like symptoms, six have tested positive for COVID-19.
There are 878 crew members on board with 840 of them "fit" to travel. Thirty-eight currently have symptoms and six crew members tested positive for COVID-19.
Before it arrived at Port Miami, the cruise line confirmed two passengers died on-board.
Meanwhile, eight additional passengers have fallen critically ill and were taken to area hospitals Sunday. That's after two other ill passengers were taken from the ship Saturday and transported to Larkin Hospital. Three others were transported to a Tampa area hospital.
An update from the Miami-Dade County Mayor's office stated that a sixth person was transported late Saturday by private ambulance after a "medical assessment by the cruise line." The statement said: "Regretfully the person later died at a local hospital in Hialeah."
In a tweet, Julie Maa said her father, Wilson Maa, died onboard the ship. She was urging local authorities to take her ailing mother, Toyling Maa off the ship. She stated on her twitter account that it was an hour before an ambulance showed up. “I can’t go through this again,” she wrote on social media.
@PrincessCruises @WPLGLocal10 @MiamiHerald Dad passed away last night. Thanks for all your support. Now my mom Toyling Maa is waiting for her ambulance. Been waiting over an hour. Please, I can't go through this again. #CoralPrincess— Julie Maa (@julieformusic) April 5, 2020
An update from Miami-Dade County Carlos Gimenez about the Coral Princess sent by his office to news desks, including Local 10, stated that Carnival Corp. has an “agreement with a local hospital and a private ambulance company to transport those passengers who need emergency care.”
He also explained that all ship clearance, which includes medical evacuations must be done at the federal level. He stressed in the statement Sunday that "Miami-Dade County does not have jurisdiction over vessel clearance and medical evacuations. The County is collaborating with the cruise line and local healthcare facilities and has Miami-Dade Fire Rescue standing by ready to offer the assistance needed for the health and care of cruise passengers and crew members when necessary.
Gimenez did state, however, that medical help was sent to Port Miami. Jackson Health medical staff, including a physician and nurses were dispatched to assist medical staff on board the Coral Princess. Miami-Dade Fire rescue has specialty units stationed at Port Miami and HAZMAT units to assist with decontamination.
On Sunday, Gimenez said that fire rescue also replaced the ship's empty oxygen cylinders with full tanks when it was learned that the ship’s oxygen supply was critically low.
Passengers David and Dianne Fowler are frustrated that they are still aboard the Coral Princess.
“I don’t want to stay in Florida,” David Fowler said. "I want to go home to Atlanta and that shouldn’t be that difficult to do.”