Princess Cruises ship docks in LA as passengers test positive for COVID-19

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Princess Cruises ship docks in LA as passengers test positive for COVID-19

As the cruise industry makes its comeback in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the tale of the Grand Princess — which returned to LA this week after an unknown number of passengers tested positive for COVID-19 — serves as a reminder that the impacts of the pandemic aren’t over just yet.

Vicki Herbers, a nurse from Murrieta, and her 80-year-old mother tested positive for COVID-19 while on a two-week cruise to Hawaii, according to CBS Los Angeles News. Herbers, in an interview with CBSLA, criticized Princess Cruises for what she said was a lack of attention by medical staff aboard the Grand Princess.

Princess Cruises said in a statement that all those who tested positive quarantined and received medical care. The cruise line did not respond to Herbers’ complaints or confirm how many passengers tested positive.

Herbers did not return a voicemail requesting comment from the Southern California News Group.

But Herbers told CBSLA that while ship officials brought a paramedic with Tylenol and cough medication, there were no medical visits from a doctor or nurse.

“I said I’ve been a nurse in lots of places and this is not how you deal with sick patients,” Herbers told CBSLA. “Somebody has to make a point of contact, to know if they’re dead or alive, for God’s sake.”

While Princess Cruises didn’t disclose specifics, positive COVID-19 cases were detected among guests and staffers during the 15-day Hawaiian cruise. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined the number of cases aboard the Grand Prnicess, which holds 2,600 people, reached the federal agency’s “orange” status, the third highest of the four levels used for monitoring cruise ships.

To reach the orange level, at least 0.3% of total passengers and/or crew members must test positive, according to the CDC.

Hitting the orange level triggers a CDC investigation. During those investigations, the CDC gathers additional information from the ship, including case exposure histories and details about close contacts. as well as vaccination status.

The red tier, the next one above orange, indicates the numbers of infections are at or above the CDC’s threshold for investigation.

The cruise was categorized as “highly vaccinated,” according to the CDC — meaning more than 95% of the passengers are vaccinated, with crew vaccination rates at 100%.

“Guests and crew who tested positive were isolated,” Princess Cruises said in a statement, “while monitored and cared for by our shipboard medical team.”

When cases onboard are detected through testing, the statement said, ship protocols are designed to “maximize onboard containment with rapid response procedures designed to safeguard all other guests and crew as well as the communities that the ships visit.”

The guests who tested positive and did not complete an isolation period onboard, the Princess statement said, will either return home by way of private transportation or would be provided accommodations to local hotels.

The Grand Princess was scheduled to leave the Port of Los Angeles late Tuesday for a four-day voyage to Vancouver.

The cruise industry was slammed especially hard when the pandemic arrived in early 2020. Hundreds of cases were reported across multiple cruise ships worldwide during that time, including aboard the Grand Princess, which had to wait for days off the coast of Northern California before being allowed to dock at the Port of Oakland following a two-week trip to Hawaii.

The cruise industry — which generates more than $150 billion per year in global economic activity and supports more than 1 million jobs worldwide, according to the Cruise Lines International Association — shut down completely shortly after.

And the industry remained shuttered for 15 months. Cruises out of the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach resumed in summer 2021, armed with protocols, vaccine requirements and new features including better ventilation systems.

The CDC dropped its COVID-19 risk advisory for cruise ship travel last month, but urges passengers to determine their own health risks before taking a cruise.

The cruise industry and the local ports have been excited for what they said will be a huge year in 2022.

The Port of LA, for example, said in November that it was more than 200 sailings in 2022, the most since 2008. And each cruise ship call brings in more than $1 million in economic activity, the port said.

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