Two Former Passengers from Grand Princess Test Positive for COVID-19

Grand Princess (file image)

Published Mar 4, 2020 1:11 PM by The Maritime Executive

Health officials in Sonoma County and Placer County, California have confirmed that two local residents who recently tested positive for coronavirus had recently traveled aboard the cruise ship Grand Princess on a voyage from San Francisco to Hawaii. One of the two individuals, the patient in Placer County, died from the illness on Wednesday. 

“We extend our deepest condolences to the loved ones of this patient,” said Placer County Health Officer Dr. Aimee Sisson. “While we have expected more cases, this death is an unfortunate milestone in our efforts to fight this disease, and one that we never wanted to see.

Placer County has declared a state of emergency in order to free up assets for epidemic response measures. “We expect to see additional cases in coming days, including cases of community spread, not linked to travel,” Dr. Sisson said in a statement. 

Response efforts on board

Grand Princess is currently under way, returning from Hawaii on the last leg of a 15-day cruise. The vessel has canceled a call in Ensenada, Mexico in order to return to San Francisco directly, and she is expected to arrive Thursday. 

In a statement, Princess Cruises chief medical officer Dr. Grant Tarling said that the cruise line is working with the CDC on addressing the implications of the two reported cases involving former passengers. 

"For those guests who sailed with us on our previous [Feb. 11-21] voyage and may have been exposed, in an abundance of caution, the CDC requires you to remain in your stateroom until you have been contacted and cleared by our medical staff," Dr. Tarling wrote. "A member of our medical team will be calling you between the hours of 8:00 AM and 11:00 AM this morning. You may order room service while you wait for the medical screening to be completed, and we apologize for any inconvenience."

The CDC is meeting with Princess Cruises' health team on Wednesday to determine what actions (if any) need to be taken during the cruise and on arrival in San Francisco, Dr. Tarling said. The line has shared past passenger travel and health data with the CDC, allowing the agency to pass the information to state and county health authorities for follow-up with former passengers who may have been exposed to the two confirmed cases. 

"We are closely recording and monitoring all persons who have reported to the medical center with cold and flu symptoms during the voyage. As a precaution, we are also conducting additional enhanced environmental disinfection onboard in addition to our regular stringent cleaning and sanitation protocols," Dr. Tarling said. 

About 80 percent of COVID-19 patients develop only mild symptoms, but the stakes for control and prevention may be higher than initial estimates indicated. On Tuesday, the World Health Organization reported that the death rate from the Wuhan coronavirus is higher than previously thought. "Globally, about 3.4 percent of reported COVID-19 cases have died. By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1 percent of those infected," WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told media in a briefing.