The Holland America Line ship Zaandam could be coming to Port Everglades, but that wouldn’t be until Monday at the earliest. In the meantime, there are more immediate concerns for the nearly 2,000 people on board.
The ship is currently sailing north along the west coast of South America. 30 passengers and 47 crew members are being treated for flu-like symptoms. The cruise line says it is sending another ship, the Rotterdam, to rendezvous with the Zaandam at sea so personnel and supplies, including COVID-19 test kits, can be dropped off. There are not testing kits on board so no one knows yet how many of those who are ill may have corona virus.
The ship’s course was a major topic of discussion today at the Broward County Commission’s workshop meeting on COVID-19.
“We’re sensitive to our partners but we would not put our community at risk,” said county administrator Bertha Henry, speaking of the possibility of not letting the Zaandam into the port.
Commissioner Michael Udine was adamant, saying the ship cannot be allowed to disembark at the port because infected passengers pose too much of a COVID-19 threat.
“We put forth a motion that until we get those assurances from the CDC, we vote not to let that cruise ship disembark at Port Everglades, it’s a danger and it’s an emergency to our residents of Broward County,” Udine said.
Port director Glenn Wiltshire answered a ton of questions at the meeting. He explained that a unified command at the port which includes the CDC, the Florida Department of Health, the Coast Guard, and the Broward Sheriff’s Office will make the decisions on how to deal with cases like the Zaandam, balancing humanitarian concerns for the ill on board with the need to protect the public health.
“The ship will not be allowed to enter until we fully understand what the situation is aboard and that the public health agencies concur with our actions,” Wiltshire said.
“We have to take on those added precautionary measures,” added Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony. “We can’t assume anything at this point in time, people are gonna get off those ships, some of them may go to the airport, some of them may stay here locally, and we want to make sure we’re not putting the public at added risk based on something that’s occurring on a cruise ship.”
The Zaandam was on a two-week cruise from Argentina to Chile. Now it’s looking for any port in the COVID-19 storm.
”We are working to get everyone home quickly as the situation remains unpredictable,” said Holland America line president, Orlando Ashford, in a video news release.