Passengers on the ill-fated Holland America Zaandam cruise ship were carefully released from their cabins and were allowed to touch dry land again on Friday for the first time in weeks after removing 14 seriously ill people who had been brought to Florida hospitals to prepare for a hospital Rush of coronavirus patients.
The Zaandam and Rotterdam, which met last week to bring healthy passengers to Rotterdam, were both given permission to board passengers in Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, after days of negotiating with local officials who feared to divert resources needed from a region where COVID-19 cases increased.
Approximately 250 people have reported influenza-like symptoms similar to those of the novel coronavirus since March 22, including 17 on board the Rotterdam. This emerges from a docking plan.
In a press conference at the White House on Friday, President Donald Trump noted that he had worked with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and military doctors to “care for these people” and “to help the humanitarian disaster”.
“We couldn’t aimlessly float them into the ocean to look for a port like they have for a long time, and I made the decision that we had to meet them,” Trump added.
It was unclear when the bodies of four passengers who died on the Zaandam would be removed from the ship. Two of the four deaths on board the Zaandam were attributed to COVID-19 and the causes of death for the other two were not disclosed.
The exodus from the Zaandaam and its sister ship Rotterdam was supposed to last all day. Floridians got out first, followed by other passengers. Buses brought people healthy enough to drive straight to the airport, where they board charter flights home without passing through the terminal.
At least four buses took the first small groups to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Friday morning, where they were preparing to board two planes waiting on the tarmac. The passengers wore masks, while paramedics and airline employees were fully dressed and masked in protective clothing.
In a document describing the disembarkation process, Holland America said that the first group, which includes approximately 1,200 passengers who are asymptomatic, may disembark on Friday or Saturday after passing a health screening.
You will also go through customs and border control processes in Port Everglades and not at the airport.
Passengers on board the MS Zaandam and the MS Rotterdam, who have been in the balance for more than a week, were preparing to leave the ship on Thursday.
On Wednesday evening, Faye and Ed Hoover received a message from the passengers on board the Rotterdam: Pack your bags.
“We were already told last night to have our luggage ready this morning and fill out the health forms and get our passports ready,” Ed told USA TODAY on Thursday afternoon.
The couple boarded a plane early Friday afternoon and were preparing to depart. The “process was seamless and painless,” said Ed. “Very organized.” They had the police escort all the way.
Holland America said the second group, which includes 26 symptomatic passengers who are not yet fit to travel, will remain on board the ship. All of these passengers must be quarantined on board. Once they are asymptomatic for 72 hours, they are allowed to disembark using the same protocol as the first group.
The rest of the crew remain on board.
Port Everglades traffic records confirmed the arrival of Zaandam and Rotterdam after 5 p.m. Local time Thursday. There were 442 guests and 603 crew members on the Zaandam and 808 guests and 583 crew members on the Rotterdam.
Contributors: Associated Press
This article originally appeared in the US TODAY: Corona Virus: Holland America cruise ships disembark in Florida