LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A group of passengers who were being held overnight aboard a Carnival cruise ship in Long Beach have been cleared to leave today after a woman who was taken off the vessel to be tested for COVID- 19, also known as coronavirus, but received negative results.
Meanwhile, a Royal Princess cruise, that was scheduled to leave Saturday from Long Beach, was canceled at the last minute after the Centers for Disease Control issued a “no-sail order” after learning one of the crew members previously served on a Grand Princess cruise, the same operator where 21 people tested positive for COVID-19 on a ship that remains docked near San Franciso.
Officials with Carnival Panorama notified passengers in Long Beach late Saturday that they could leave, although most stayed aboard until this morning
“The precautionary COVID-19 test on a Carnival Panorama guest has come back negative and guests have been cleared to disembark in Long Beach,” said a company statement issued to the media today.
The company's next “Mexican Rivera” cruise was delayed for one day while the passenger was tested, and will be cut from seven to six days, the statement said.
As for the Royal Princess cruise, passengers showed up Saturday, ready to leave, but were delayed for hours after the CDC raised questions about the former Grand Princess crew member, according to the Cruise Waves website.
“Princess Cruises was requested by the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to share information about a crew member who previously served on Grand Princess and transferred to Royal Princess 15 days ago,” Royal Princess officials said in a statement to Cruise Waves. “After sharing all information and details about the crew member, the CDC approved clearance for Royal Princess yesterday, to sail today, with no restrictions placed on the vessel.
“However, late this afternoon (Saturday), the CDC informed us of their decision to issue a “no-sail order” until the crew member was tested for COVID-19. We have unfortunately been unable to obtain this test given the lateness of the request. Due to the unknown timing of obtaining the test and results ... we have canceled the cruise.”
Royal Princess officials emphasized that the “crew member is past the maximum incubation of COVID-19, has been evaluated and has never developed any respiratory symptoms or fever. The crew member had no known contact or exposure to other guests or crew who were ill on Grand Princess.”
But passengers said they were left waiting while the cruise line continued communicating with the CDC.
“The Royal Princess was supposed to take off today from Long Beach but instead we sat there for 6+ hours waiting to embark onto the ship,” a Twitter user named Em posted Saturday, “and then they canceled the cruise. “
Royal Princess said it is now working with disappointed passengers to find accommodations or other transportation and will reimburse guests up to $300 per booking for one night's hotel costs in Los Angeles.
Elsewhere in Los Angeles County, local health officials have confirmed a new case of coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases to 14.
The new case is a resident who recently returned from attending the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Conference in Washington, D.C., where there was a known exposure to a person who was positive for the virus -- also known as COVID-19, officials from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said.
“Public Health is identifying persons who may have had close personal contact with this individual, including any friends, family members or health care professionals, to assess and monitor them for signs and symptoms of illness has begun. All confirmed cases are isolated and close contacts are quarantined for 14 days from last exposure,” a department statement said. “There are no known public exposure locations related to this case.”
“As we continue to see more cases of COVID-19, it is important that everyone take common sense precautions: stay home when ill, wash hands frequently, and plan ahead for possible social disruptions,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, county director of public health. “Pregnant women, individuals with underlying health conditions, and older people should practice social distancing and avoid being in close contact with others who are ill. By working together, we can try to slow the transmission of novel coronavirus.”
On Friday, two cases were announced in Los Angeles County -- including a second passenger-medical screener at LAX. Ferrer said the second patient was another traveler who recently visited northern Italy. The person was in the same group of travelers that resulted in seven previous positive tests for coronavirus, or COVID-19.
The county's cases break down as:
-- eight people in the travel group to Italy;
-- two contract employees who were conducting coronavirus medical screenings of arriving passengers at Los Angeles International Airport;
-- two relatives of a person who lives outside the county and was also confirmed with the virus; and
-- a traveler from the area of Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. That person, the county's first, has since recovered;
-- the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) traveler announced Saturday.
Ferrer stressed that all of the county's cases have been traced to an exposure source, so there are no local incidents of unknown community spread of the illness. She noted that the two LAX screeners worked at the same quarantine station at the airport and are likely to have been exposed to the same source of the illness, but the county has asked the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to handle the investigation into those cases.
All of the patients are under isolation. She said health officials have identified close contacts of the patients who are being interviewed, “and as appropriate they too will be subject to quarantine for up to 14 days from their last exposure to a confirmed case.”
She said she understands that the increasing number of cases will spark greater concern among residents and raise questions about what they can do to protect themselves.
“We are going to reiterate our main messages, which is for the general public, your risk still remains low, although this is the time to start making sure you're practicing what we call good public health hygiene,” Ferrer said. “The primary message for everyone is to stay home when they're sick. The primary message for everyone, children and adults, is even with mild illness to please not circulate in the public, particularly don't go to schools and don't go into work.”
She described “mild symptoms” as having a fever of over 100, along with respiratory symptoms or stomach ailments.
She said the county has been working to contact employers to stress that message, and asked that they institute flexible, non-punitive policies allowing employees to stay home if they feel ill. She also stressed that people who develop mild illness shouldn't automatically run to a doctor's office.
“You can call your doctor, particularly if you're a person with underlying health conditions or you're pregnant, but please don't just go in,” she said. “This is the time for us to make sure our medical professionals are able to treat those people with the most serious illnesses and not to have people with mild illness who actually don't need to see a clinician go into a health-care facility to have their questions answered.”
The virus' effects on the economy continued to be felt locally Saturday, as organizers of the Milken Institute Global Conference announced the event, scheduled to take place in Beverly Hills in early May, has been rescheduled to July 7-10 at a venue to be announced.
The annual gathering brings together leaders in business, government, science, philanthropy and academia from around the world. The 23rd annual conference had been slated for May 2-6 at the Beverly Hilton.
The American Film Institute postponed its annual Life Achievement Award gala set to honor singer and actress Julie Andrews. It was scheduled for April 25 at the Dolby Theatre, but will be rescheduled for an unspecified date early this summer.
Long Beach-based Molina Healthcare announced Saturday that it is waiving all out-of-pocket costs associated with COVID-19 testing for its members.
In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a statewide emergency Saturday, as the number of cases there increased to 76. Two COVID-19 deaths were reported in Florida, and the number of cases in the United States was at last 377, with 19 deaths.
Worldwide, the virus has killed more than 3,480 people, and infected more than 102,000.
Photos: Getty Images