Florida governor may turn away cruise ship with 4 dead, 189 sick aboard

A cruise ship with four dead and 189 sick with flu-like symptoms is bound for Florida from Panama, but it faces more uncertainty after the state’s governor announced Monday that he doesn’t want the ship’s passengers to be “dumped” there amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis made the comments on Fox News on Monday about the approaching ship, Holland America’s Zaandam, which passed through the Panama Canal on Sunday after being denied port for weeks throughout South America, reports said.

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"We cannot afford to have people who are not even Floridians dumped into South Florida using up those valuable resources," DeSantis said, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel. "We view this as a big, big problem, and we don't want to see people dumped in southern Florida right now."

Holland America had previously announced its intention to travel to Fort Lauderdale, but officials at Port Everglades said Sunday the plan had not yet been approved.

The Zaandam, which set sail from Buenos Aires on March 7, is being accompanied by another vessel, the Rotterdam, where healthy passengers were moved during the ship's holdover. No one has been off the ship since March 14 in Punta Arenas, Chile, CNN reported.

At least two people have tested positive for coronavirus on the Zaandam, reports said, according to Holland America. No cause of death has been given for the four deceased.

DeSantis said he has been in communication with the White House about the appropriate actions to take.

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The ships could reach South Florida by late Wednesday or early Thursday, but it remains to be seen if either “is permitted to dock,” said Ellen Kennedy, spokeswoman for Port Everglades, according to the Sentinel.

Of the 189 reported having flu symptoms aboard the Zaandam, 73 are passengers and 116 crew members, the Sentinel reported.

Passengers reached by the Sun Sentinel on Monday said the captain had told them that a “final destination is still being negotiated.”

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Several officials in Port Everglades were said to be alarmed about docking the boat there. Broward County officials suggested taking passengers to Homestead Air Reserve Base in Miami-Dade County to be quarantined, the Sentinel reported.

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis also opposed the ship in his community, the Sentinel reported. “There are Navy bases on the Eastern seaboard where this ship could dock and be dealt with in a much more controlled environment,” he said, citing hospitals in the area were already “overwhelmed.”