13 crew members sick with coronavirus symptoms evacuated from Costa cruise ships in Miami

By TAYLOR DOLVEN | Miami Herald | Published: March 26, 2020

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MIAMI (Tribune News Service) — Thirteen crew members in need of life-critical care from two cruise ships were evacuated to local hospitals in Miami Thursday with COVID-19 symptoms.

The ships — Costa Magica and Costa Favolosa — lingered three miles offshore as lifeboats transported sick people to the U.S. Coast Guard station at Port Miami. Decked in hazmat suits, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue workers helped the people off of lifeboats and into ambulances that took them to local hospitals.

Seven Favolosa crew members and six Magica crew members planned to be evacuated Thursday, according to a source close to the situation. Spokesperson for the Miami-Dade county seaport Andria Muniz-Amador said in a statement that they have respiratory symptoms consistent with pneumonia and bronchitis.

Each ship has around 1,000 crew members left on board. Thirty people between the two ships had flu-like symptoms Wednesday, according to Costa Cruises, owned by Carnival Corporation.

Each ship has around 1,000 crew members left on board. Some have lost their sense of smell, a symptom of new coroanvirus infection.

Muniz-Amador said early Thursday that the ships are not scheduled to dock at PortMiami. She referred questions about what will happen to the rest of the crew on board the ships to the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Florida Department of Health did not respond to requests for comment about how the crew will be treated.

Jackson Health System, the University of Miami Health System and Baptist Health will care for the sick people, said Matt Pinzur, a spokesperson for Jackson Health System.

“While we are all committed to preserving resources for our own residents, an international community like Miami would never turn our backs on people aboard ships at our shores,” Pinzur said in a statement. “A team from Jackson’s emergency department worked with the US Coast Guard and Miami-Dade Fire Rescue to receive these symptomatic patients at the Coast Guard station, and they will be hospitalized at our three systems until they can safely return home.”

In mid-March, all passengers and a few crew disembarked in the Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe after the cruise industry halted operation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Eight people on the ships tested positive for COVID-19, including four crew members.

Authorities in Guadeloupe and Martinique would not allow the ships to remain there. Instead, the ships sailed in circles near Antilla, Cuba, Wednesday, hoping to dock there and repatriate the crew members. The company did not respond to a request for comment about why that plan did not materialize. All other Caribbean ports have turned the ships away.

A crew member on board the Favolosa who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation said he lost his sense of smell about a week ago, as have seven coworkers. They worry this could be a symptom of the virus, as evidence suggests. He is not showing any other symptoms and worries he won’t be tested.


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