Dozens of passengers screened for coronavirus after cruise ship docks in NJ; Royal Caribbean bans some passport holders

Samantha Liebman
February 07, 2020 - 1:00 pm
Coronavirus cruise ship Bayonne

Samantha Liebman/1010 WINS

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BAYONNE, N.J. (1010 WINS) – A cruise ship that docked at Bayonne Friday morning was carrying dozens of passengers who were screened for possible coronavirus, leading Royal Caribbean to ban some passport holders from its fleet of ships until further notice.

The Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas had 4,000 passengers on board when it docked in New Jersey at 6 a.m. Friday and was met by a number of ambulances. Approximately 27 were screened for coronavirus Friday, officials said.

More than dozen Chinese nationals were quarantined and screened Friday after reporting symptoms while on the ship, Gov. Phil Murphy said in a statement Friday morning.

Murphy said that four of those screened were sent to an area hospital for further screening. The other 23 passengers, all Chinese nationals, were cleared and will be taken to Newark Liberty International Airport for a flight back to China.

"The hospital is following proper infection control protocols while evaluating these individuals," Murphy said. "New Jersey currently has no confirmed cases of novel coronavirus and the risk to residents remains low."

The cruise ship had left Cape Liberty on Jan. 27 for an 11-day cruise to the Caribbean. People were reporting symptoms while the ship was on its way to New Jersey from the Bahamas.

The sick people were placed in isolation before being taken to a hospital by ambulance Friday morning for additional screening by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A source said the passengers had been exhibiting pulmonary issues.

In a statement, Royal Caribbean said: "We appreciate the abundance of caution and their partnership. We understand CDC intends to test samples from four guests for coronavirus. None of the four guests showed any clinical signs or symptoms of coronavirus while they were onboard our ship. One had tested positive onboard for Influenza A. Our records indicate the guests had not been in China since January 26 — 14 days ago."

The statement continued: "All other guests have been permitted to disembark as usual. We have also been cleared by authorities to depart on our next cruise as usual. However, to reassure concerned guests, we will delay our departure until tomorrow, when we expect to receive conclusive test results from CDC."

On Friday afternoon, Royal Caribbean said in a statement it was banning all guests holding Chinese, Hong Kong or Macau passports from boardings any of the ships in its fleet until further notice.

The cruise company said anyone who has traveled from, to or through mainland China, Hong Kong or Macau less than 15 days prior to sailing will not be allowed on any of its ships, as well. It said it's also banning any guest or crewmember who has been in contact with someone who has traveled from, to or through mainland China, Hong Kong or Macau less than 15 days before sailing.

Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis tweeted that the CDC consider the incident "below low risk" and that all other passengers were released "with no action needed."

Davis said he was certain the New Jersey Department of Health, the CDC and the Port Authority are equipped to deal with any concerns.

Passengers told 1010 WINS that they had no idea people on board were being tested for the virus.

"They said they were testing people for the virus, but that was only this morning—never heard anything all week," one man said.

Some passengers felt they were better off not knowing.

"Ignorance is bliss," one woman said.

So far three of five patients in New York City tested negative for the virus this week. The two other patients are still awaiting the results of CDC tests.

If an outbreak of the virus does occur in the U.S., Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey have been designated as quarantine camps.

Twelve people in the U.S. are confirmed to have the coronavirus, while dozens more are being monitored.

On Friday, two more planes with Americans evacuated from Wuhan to the U.S. One of the planes was scheduled to arrive in Camp Ashland in Nebraska, where the passengers will be screened.

Meanwhile, thousands have come down with the virus in China and hundreds more have died from it there.

Japan turned away a second cruise ship Friday after a cruise ship off the coast of the island nation had dozens of passengers with coronavirus.

The new virus is in the coronavirus family that includes Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, and severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS. It causes fever, cough, shortness of breath and, in severe cases, pneumonia.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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