California Gov. Gavin Newsom urged the state’s nearly 40 million residents Tuesday to avoid sporting events, concerts and large gatherings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and adamantly warned the elderly to stay away from cruise ships as he pondered measures to restrict cruise travel off the California coast.
The warning came as Newsom announced an update to the painstaking process of disembarking more than 2,000 passengers from a cruise ship struck by the coronavirus and moving them to military bases around the U.S. for two weeks of quarantine. The Grand Princess ship docked in the Port of Oakland Monday after being forced to idle for days off the coast while authorities scrambled to find a suitable port and plan to move the passengers into safe quarantine sites.
“I don’t think people should be on cruise ships that are elderly,” Newsom said. “I don’t think you should high-five one another and hug strangers at large sporting events if you have an underlying health condition.”
He said legal advisers are reviewing the possibility of restricting cruise travel off the California coast as he awaits new federal guideline on the cruise industry. In the meantime, he said cruise ships ought to introduce aggressive requirements for travelers “at the peril of that industry collapsing.”
Newsom said 157 Californians tested positive for the coronavirus. He expects the number of cases to significantly rise as more tests kits become available.
As of Tuesday, about 400 passengers have been taken off the ship. They included 26 who with medical needs not related to the coronavirus who were taken by ambulance to hospitals and 228 Canadians who were flown home. Those who were released from the hospitals after being treated will be sent to hotels in several locations to spend their 14-day quarantine, while other Americans will be flown or bused to military bases in California, Texas and Georgia.
About 1,100 crew members, 19 of whom tested positive for the virus, will be quarantined and treated aboard the ship, which will dock elsewhere after passengers are unloaded. Many of the crew members will be repatriated to their home in the Philippines, Newsom said.
Most of the crew members who tested positive for coronavirus did not show symptoms, a Princess spokeswoman said.
Another Princess ship, the Diamond Princess, was quarantined for two weeks in Yokohama, Japan, last month because of the virus. Ultimately, about 700 of the 3,700 people aboard became infected in what experts pronounced a public health failure.
The virus has infected over 800 people in the U.S. and killed at least 29, many of them from a single nursing home in the Seattle area.