Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said state will take residents on cruise ship Zaandam

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However, it remains unclear whether passengers will be allowed to disembark.

Calling the plight of the people on board a “humanitarian situation”, Holland America ON launched last Wednesday a call to the federal and local authorities to authorize the cruise ships Zaandam and Rotterdam to land in the port of Everglades of Fort Lauderdale.

“We appreciate President Trump’s support to resolve the humanitarian plight of our guests,” the Anglo-American cruise line said in a statement. “Holland America Line calls for compassion and reason as Florida officials review and approve our landing plan. “

The call came hours after Governor Ron DeSantis said his state was ready to accept Floridians on cruise ships.

“I fear we have worked so hard to ensure we have adequate hospital space in the event of a Covid-19 surge, we would not want these precious beds to be taken up because of the cruise ship,” said DeSantis .

There are 808 guests and 583 crew members on the Rotterdam and 442 guests and 603 crew members on the Zaandam, according to Holland America. There are 311 American citizens, including 52 Floridians.

DeSantis voiced concerns about receiving more people given the limited number of state hospital beds.

“We will be ready to accept Floridians on board,” he told reporters. “I understand that most of the passengers are foreign nationals. “

The cruise line said 97 passengers and 136 crew members aboard the ships had symptoms of the flu. Sick passengers would remain isolated on board until they recover.

Holland America said it has a local health system to treat the less than 10 people in need of immediate intensive care ashore.

“This small number is the only group that will need the support of medical resources in Broward County and is necessary to avoid further harm to their health,” said the cruise company statement.

According to the cruise line, nearly 1,200 passengers are fit to go home, according to CDC guidelines, suggesting that these travelers could take their return flight after disembarking. Guests would be transported in sanitized buses with limited person-to-person contact and masks.

The governor said there are about 30 percent of hospital beds available in Florida, where two field hospitals have been set up in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

Trump said on Tuesday evening that he plans to discuss the situation with DeSantis.

“People die on the ship, or at least very sick, but they die on the ship,” said Trump. “So I’m going to do what’s right.” “

The mayor of Fort Lauderdale said he plans to meet with the CEO of Holland America on Wednesday to discuss a possible solution.

“We want these sick people to get immediate medical assistance,” Mayor Dean Trantalis told CNN. “We must be comfortable knowing that they are quarantined so as not to infect the rest of the community. “

The Zaandam, on which four passengers have died since leaving the Argentine capital on March 7, is one of a dozen cruise ships stranded at sea as ports refuse entry and passengers panic at the idea of ​​going home.

Holland America's cruise ship Zaandam, with sick passengers and crew members on board, is looking for a berth.

“We were not against ships moored in our community,” said Trantalis. “The problem is that no protocol has yet been established to allow these people to leave the ship. We are in the middle of a humanitarian crisis here. “

US Coast Guard says foreign ships strain medical resources

Everglades Harbor officials have said that Holland America must have an approved mooring and landing plan before its ships can enter US waters.

US Senator Rick Scott from Florida said that each passenger on Zaandam should be quarantined for 14 days.

“We have to make sure the sick are treated properly, but we can’t take any risks,” he said in a statement this week.

The Zaandam began transiting the Panama Canal on Sunday evening after being moored off the coast of Panama for several days. The boat and its occupants have been in limbo for weeks awaiting permission to disembark after several South American ports have refused entry.

“We must be able to allow people to get off the ship and be able to return to their families, whether in Florida, anywhere in this country or anywhere in the world,” Trantalis said on Wednesday. “But we can’t do it willy-nilly. We must be sure that we are taking precautions. “

The US Coast Guard, in a marine safety information bulletin released on Sunday, said an increase in the number of foreign passenger ships requiring medical evacuations is straining local medical resources.

Passengers have “better access to a comfortable environment and to medical personnel on board the foreign passenger ship where care is already being provided,” the bulletin said.

“This is necessary because onshore medical facilities may reach full capacity and lose the ability to effectively accept and treat other critically ill patients,” said the bulletin.

Jennifer Allan said her mother, Gloria Weed, 70, and father, Bill Weed, 75, were quarantined in their cabin aboard the Zaandam in what she described as “solitary confinement.”

“My father developed pneumonia,” she told CNN this week. “It is getting worse. They must arise. They must get medical attention as soon as possible. ”

Allan said his parents, who live in Sarasota, Florida, had a fever about 10 days ago. She described the efforts of Zaandam’s crew to deal with passengers as “extraordinary”, even though many are themselves ill.

No one has left the ship since it stopped in Punta Arenas, Chile on March 14. The guests were initially informed that they could disembark in Chile for flights, but this was ultimately prohibited.

Holland America deployed the Rotterdam to relieve. Rotterdam met with Zaandam off Panama on March 26 to “provide additional supplies, personnel, Covid-19 test kits and any other support needed.” “

Previously, the ship had no coronavirus test kits on board.

Holland America has transferred healthy customers from Zaandam to Rotterdam, which is also looking for a port. As of Wednesday afternoon, the two ships were off the western tip of Cuba, according to the MarineTraffic vessel tracking site.

Holland America Line president Orlando Ashford wrote an editorial printed in the South Florida Sun Sentinel on Monday asking for compassion for Zaandam guests.

“And we need confirmation from a port that is willing to express the same compassion and grace as Panama, and to allow us to enter so that our customers can go directly to the airport for return flights . It is tempting to speculate on the diseases that could have been avoided or lives saved if we had gotten the help we were looking for weeks ago, “he wrote as the ship searched for a place to dock.

CNN’s Jennifer Henderson contributed to this report.

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