Vice President Mike Pence, along with Florida Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, and Governor Ron DeSantis, spoke at a press conference in Fort Lauderdale Saturday afternoon, addressing mounting concerns of the coronavirus and the effect it will have on the cruise industry.
Pence made mention of the Grand Princess cruise ship, which recently had 19 crew members and 2 passengers test positive for the virus.
The Carnival operated ship is currently being held off the California coast.
"The American people deserve to know that the risk of contracting the coronavirus to the average American remains low," Pence said. "That being said we are going to lean into this effort."
The Vice President said the Grand Princess would be directed to a non-commercial port where passengers would be tested and quarantined.
Pence also announced a preliminary agreement he and cruise executives made to stop the spread of COVID-19 on ships. The Vice President said executives would work on ironing out the details over the next three days.
Some of the outlined rules included:
- Further enhancements on entrance and exit screenings.
- Establishing on-board coronavirus testing
- New quarantine standards which will be coordinated with the Center of Disease Control and Prevention.
- Developing a plan to move passengers who have contracted the virus to land-based facilities.
Cruise lines are a $45-billion industry, and South Florida is home to two of the three busiest ports in the United States. Nearly 6 million passengers set sail from Port Miami in the past year aboard more than 1,200 cruise ships that docked there.
Pence cautioned seniors with underlying health conditions to practice "common sense" in planning any cruise vacations.
On Friday, Royal Caribbean introduced its measures to address the spread:
- Effective Friday, March 6, mandatory temperature screenings using digital, non-touch scanners will be conducted with guests, crew members and visitors on embarkation day prior to boarding any vessel. If temperature registers about 100.4°F (38°), the person and his/her travel companions will be referred to a secondary health screening. Guests who are denied boarding due to screening results will receive compensation.
- Regardless of nationality, boarding will be denied to:
- Any person who has traveled from, to or through mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Italy, Iran or South Korea 15 days prior to embarkation.
- Any person who has come in contact with anyone with 15-day prior travel to mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Italy, Iran or South Korea. The CDC characterizes contact with an individual as coming within six feet of a person.
- Any person who within 15 days prior to embarkation, has had contact with, or helped care for, anyone suspected or diagnosed as having COVID-19, or who are currently subject to health monitoring for possible exposure to COVID-19.
3. Secondary, enhanced health screenings will be performed on:
- Any person who reports feeling unwell or displays flu-like symptoms.
- Any person who has traveled from, to or through Japan or Thailand in the 15 days prior to embarkation.
- Any person who is uncertain about contact with individuals who have traveled in the 15 days prior to embarkation from, to or through mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Iran, Italy, South Korea, Japan or Thailand.
Saturday morning, DeSantis tweeted that Florida's Division of Emergency Management would be activated to level 2.
The conference came after a hectic week in Florida for health officials, who confirmed Friday evening that 2 state residents infected with the novel coronavirus had died, while another 2 cases had been confirmed "presumptively positive" in Broward County.
In a press release, the Florida Department of Health in Broward County said the new cases in Broward involve a 75-year-old man and a 65-year-old man. The two men are isolated and will remain in isolation until they are cleared by health professionals, officials said.
The two deceased patients came from Santa Rosa County and Lee County, and both had returned from "international trips," the department said.
Further details on the identities of the individuals and where they traveled were not available.