WASHINGTON: The United States is tracking a cruise ship that may have shared crew members with a ship carrying people who tested positive for COVID-19, Vice President Mike Pence said on Saturday (Mar 7).
“We are tracking at this point a ship that may have shared crew with the Diamond Princess or the Grand Princess and we’ve taken decisive action to hold until we do a full medical assessment of the crew on that ship,” Pence said after a meeting with cruise line industry officials.
He did not identify the ship being tracked.
21 people aboard the Grand Princess tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday.
Pence said that the ocean liner that has been barred from docking in San Francisco will be taken to an unspecified non-commercial port where everyone on board will be tested again, and that those "who need to be quarantined will be quarantined" and those who need medical care will receive it.
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Asked if elderly people should avoid cruise ships, Pence said elderly people with serious underlying medical conditions were most likely to become very ill or die from the new disease. "Those Americans should avoid any activities that might unnecessarily expose them to the coronavirus," he said.
The vice president also said that the cruise industry would develop within the next 72 hours expanded testing for the new disease.
"Today we reached an agreement with the cruise line industry to further enhance entry and exit screening and also to establish shipboard testing for the coronavirus," said Pence.
The industry will also work with U.S. public health agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to set up standards to quarantine ships and to transport ill passengers to shore, Pence said.
"This will be an industry-led effort," he said.
More than half of all US states have reported cases of the coronavirus, which originated in China last year and causes a sometimes deadly respiratory illness dubbed COVID-19.
In New York, the number of confirmed cases jumped by 21 overnight to a statewide total of 76 people, 10 of whom have been hospitalized, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Saturday. He issued a declaration of emergency.
"It allows expedited purchasing and expedited hiring, which is what we need right now," Cuomo told a news conference.