The U.S. Coast Guard has directed all cruise ships at sea to remain sequestered where they are, indefinitely, in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, while discussions between U.S. President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis continue regarding the possibility of allowing Holland America Line’s ms Zaandam and Rotterdam to dock in the state.
The Canadian Press reported that the rule, which applies to any vessel with 50 or more passengers, was announced in a March 29 safety bulletin. Trump said Tuesday he is speaking with DeSantis about whether to allow the Zaandam and the Rotterdam, one of which has seen four people die and 200 passengers and crew report flu-like symptoms, to dock.
Global Affairs Canada said in a statement that there are 97 Canadian passengers on the Zaandam and 150 Canadians on the Rotterdam. At this time, no COVID-19 cases have been confirmed among Canadian passengers.
Earlier this week, both ships were allowed to transit through the Panama Canal en route to Florida.
More than two dozen cruise ships are either lined up at Port Miami and Port Everglades or waiting offshore, the Miami Herald reported. Most have only crew aboard, but several still carry passengers and are steaming toward ports in southern Florida.
Under normal conditions, when a passenger or crew member become too ill for the ship's medical team to care for, they call the Coast Guard to provide a medical evacuation to an onshore hospital. Under the new rules, sick passengers would be sequestered indefinitely on board.
The document requires all ships in U.S. waters to report their numbers of sick and dead on board each day or face civil penalties or criminal prosecution.
Cruise ships with sick passengers must consult with the Coast Guard, which may now recommend keeping the sick person on board. The Coast Guard will decide if a transfer is absolutely necessary, but the cruise line would be responsible for arranging on-shore transportation and hospital beds.