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Cruise Ships With Sick People Dock In Florida

The Carnival cruise ship Zaandam sailing near Juneau, Alaska (file photo).
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Universal Images Group via Getty
The Carnival cruise ship Zaandam sailing near Juneau, Alaska (file photo).

Carrying passengers and crew sick with COVID-19, the Holland America cruise ship Zaandam docked in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. today. It and its sister ship the Rotterdam were allowed to dock and begin disembarking passengers after officials reached an agreement with Holland America's parent company, Carnival Cruise Line.

The Zaandam has been at sea on what began as a South American cruise since March 7. After some on the ship began to develop flu-like symptoms, Chile and several other countries refused to allow any passengers to disembark.

Holland America says nearly 200 passengers and crew eventually became sick, and four people died. The company sent a second ship, the Rotterdam, to bring medical supplies and personnel to the Zaandam. Some healthy passengers were transferred to the new ship to minimize their chances of being exposed to the coronavirus.

The company says as many as nine people on the Zaandam need hospitalization. Holland America says a local hospital in Broward County, Fla. has agreed to admit them.

Thursday morning, Broward County Commissioner Michael Udine released a statement saying local officials, working with the Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had reached an agreement with Carnival. It will allow healthy passengers to disembark and take cars, charter flights or hired buses home. The company says approximately 45 passengers still have "mild illness and are unfit to travel at this time." That group will remain on board and isolate themselves until they have recovered and, under CDC guidelines, are allowed to travel.

After saying for days, that he didn't believe the two ships should be allowed to dock in Ft. Lauderdale, Gov. Ron DeSantis relented late yesterday. The number of patients needing treatment he said is "very manageable and the local hospital system thinks they can manage it."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

As NPR's Miami correspondent, Greg Allen reports on the diverse issues and developments tied to the Southeast. He covers everything from breaking news to economic and political stories to arts and environmental stories. He moved into this role in 2006, after four years as NPR's Midwest correspondent.