Two Costa Cruises ships — the Favolosa and the Magica — plan to dock at PortMiami Thursday with 30 sick people on board, a company spokesperson said.
At least six people on the Favolosa and two people on the Magica have tested positive for COVID-19 in recent weeks after disembarking from the ships. Now, only crew members remain on board, and at least 30 of them have flu-like symptoms, according to a spokesperson for Carnival Corporation, which owns Costa Cruises.
Both ships were originally based in Guadeloupe, a Caribbean island territory of France, making 7- and 14-night Caribbean cruises. The ships were in the middle of scheduled sailings when the industry announced it would halt operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 13.
Passengers from both ships disembarked in mid-March and returned to their home countries on chartered flights from Guadeloupe and Martinique.
Three passengers and three crew members from the Favolosa, who also disembarked, tested positive, according to the company. There are still 1,009 crew members on board the Favolosa.
One passenger and one crew member from the Magica, who also left the ship, tested positive, according to the company. There are 930 crew members on board the Magica.
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.
Spokesperson for Miami-Dade County’s seaport Andria Muniz-Amador said she did not have any information about the ships docking in Miami and referred questions to the cruise company and the U.S. Coast Guard.
“The Coast Guard is monitoring the situation of both underway passenger vessels and is working with federal, state, and local port partners as coordination efforts are made to assist any mariners and crew that need higher medical care,” said a Coast Guard spokesperson.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Florida Department of Health did not immediately respond to questions about whether the people on board would be tested and where sick people would be treated upon arrival.
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A crew member on board 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. A crew member said he was told that only people who have a fever will be tested.
The company said all workers except for deck and engine staff have been isolated in individual cabins for several days. But a crew member said restaurant and kitchen staff are working eight-hour days to deliver food to all of the cabins. They are wearing masks and gloves, the crew member said.
A CDC analysis of the February Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantine in Japan found that the new coronavirus spread quickly among the food service crew members on board who live and work in small, confined spaces. The CDC has warned against cruise travel worldwide, citing the increased risk of COVID-19 infection on ships, yet thousands of crew members remain at sea.