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Zaandam coming to South Florida Thursday; sick passengers will go to health department

Samantha J. Gross and Taylor Dolven, Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

MIAMI -- As the beleaguered Zaandam and Rotterdam cruise ships steam toward Port Everglades, more than 1,200 passengers on board still don't know what will happen to them when they arrive early Thursday.

Carnival Corp.'s Holland America Line said in a statement late Wednesday that the company is still waiting on the go-ahead from local authorities. At least nine people aboard the ships are sick with COVID-19, the highly infectious disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and four have died.

Both ships are on the Port Everglades docking schedule for Thursday at 1 p.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Managing the ships' arrival will be "Unified Command," a cohort that consists of leadership from Broward County's Port Everglades, the U.S. Coast Guard, Broward Sheriff's Office, Customs and Border Protection and the Florida Department of Health. Ellen Kennedy, a spokesperson for the port, did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday about the status of the group's decision-making.

After a five-hour meeting Tuesday, Broward commissioners rejected Carnival's plan for the ships' arrival, saying it lacked specifics, and sent the company back to the drawing board. Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday he would allow the ships to dock, a reversal from his position Monday.

The company's plan announced late Wednesday calls for giving masks to all passengers who aren't showing symptoms of COVID-19, then transferring them to airports for charter and commercial flights. Around 45 people who are sick will be treated on the ships and 10 needing critical care will be transferred to local hospitals.

 

Erik Elvejord, a spokesperson for Holland America Line, said crew members would remain on the ship.

Broward Health confirmed to the Miami Herald that "critically ill" patients will be transferred to the hospital system.

At a press conference Wednesday, DeSantis said he is willing to accept any Floridians on board, but that the state is still working on ways to "deal with" foreign nationals so as to not drain resources in South Florida, the state's epicenter of COVID-19 cases.

On Tuesday, DeSantis said he didn't want any of the cruise passengers to get off in Florida.

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