The coronavirus-stricken Grand Princess cruise ship moved toward the Port of Oakland Monday in preparation for thousands of passengers to disembark.
The latest from the ship marks the beginning of the end after six days of uncertainty for the 3,500 people aboard the ship, which has been moored off the coast of California since Wednesday. Passengers will now be transferred to federal facilities for quarantine, state officials said, and the 1,000 or so crew members will remain on the ship for quarantine.
There are 21 people infected by COVID-19 aboard the ship, Vice President Mike Pence said Friday, but officials only tested 46 people on the ship.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Sunday that passengers in need of medical attention will disembark first, followed by the nearly 1,000 residents of California who are on the ship. Then the remaining passengers will disembark.
Passengers are expected to disembark Monday, U.S. officials said Sunday, emphasizing that it's a complex operation largely dependent on tides and weather conditions. The process could take up to two or three days, Newsom said, or even longer depending on wave conditions and cross-currents.
The 2,500 passengers aboard the ship will be quarantined for 14 days at a federal facility, Newsom said. Those who are residents of California will be transported to Travis Air Force Base or Marine Corps Air Station Miramar for quarantine. Passengers who are not American citizens will be repatriated, Newsom added. He said the remaining passengers will be flown out of Oakland International Airport to Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas or Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Georgia.
On Sunday, the U.S. State Department urged Americans against travel on cruise ships.
The ship, which was on a two-week voyage to Hawaii, was ordered to return early to San Francisco after people on board developed symptoms. The ship was due to arrive in San Francisco on Wednesday, California officials said last week, but was held at sea, off the coast of California while testing was conducted. The California National Guard delivered test kits to the ship by helicopter on Thursday.
The decision was made to disembark passengers at the Port of Oakland, Newsom said Sunday, because it is a non-commercial port, it is large enough to handle a ship of this size, and because of its proximity to an airport. He sought to reassure the public that no one in the community would be exposed to the virus.
Princess Cruises is also the operator of the Diamond Princess ship, which saw one of the earliest major outbreaks of COVID-19 outside of China. The Diamond Princess was quarantined at a Japanese port on Feb. 4 after a previous guest, who didn't have any symptoms while aboard the ship, tested positive for the virus.
There were 3,700 passengers and crew aboard the ship. More than 700 became infected and all passengers were quarantined aboard the ship. Multiple people died on board. The Japanese government and other nations eventually evacuated their citizens from the ship.