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The latest updates on the COVID-19 outbreak in South Florida. This page ended its updates as of August 2020. Head here for additional stories on COVID-19 and the pandemic.

Cruise Ships Docking At Port Everglades; Plans Underway For Sick Passengers

Holland America
The Zaandam is one of two ships in the process of docking and clearing passengers at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale.

Two Holland America cruise ships, the Zaandam and Rotterdam, are in the process of docking and clearing passengers at Port Everglades.

There are are total of 13 people with COVID-19 (10 on the Zaandam and three on the Rotterdam) who are listed in the plan as needing critical care, according to the final plan. Only the most critical will be taken to hospitals in the Broward Health System, a spokesperson confirmed to WLRN. 

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There are 26 people on board with mild cases of the illness who need to stay until they get better, and 1,211 people who, per CDC guidelines, are well enough to be fit for travel, according to the final plan. 

Healthy guests will get on coach buses after leaving the ship, and then taken to their flights home.

Holland America is a subsidiary of the Carnival Corp., which has been working with leaders at the port to negotiate a plan to transport healthy people to their home states and countries with minimal contact to the local community. 
That will happen on chartered flights to domestic and international destinations on Friday and Saturday, according to a port spokesperson. 

"There are no plans to use commercial flights for any passengers," the plan states. Crew members will not disembark - 50 people on crew currently have flu-like symptoms. 

Thursday at 8 p.m. is the target time to have cleared passengers deemed "Fit For Travel" on both ships. Passengers are being screened per guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Earlier Thursday, Broward County Commissioner Michael Udine released an 11:30 a.m. update to describe part of the plan, which reads in part:

"By holding firm, the cruise company has come up with a safe plan agreed to by the experts at Unified Command. Carnival will be providing legal assurance for the transport of many out of the area and many other safeguards. Many crew and others will stay on the ship. Critically ill people will be hospitalized. All of this will be at the expense of Carnival. Sheriff (Gregory) Tony and the Coast Guard are putting operation plans in place," the statement read in part. 

The unified command at Port Everglades during the coronavirus outbreak that approved the plan, along with the county commission, consists of eight agencies:  U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Broward Sheriff's Office departments of law enforcement and fire rescue, the Florida Dept. of Health in Broward County, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Broward County Emergency Managament, the Port Everglades Pilots Association, and the Broward County Port Everglades department. 

After debating how to handle the growing humanitarian crisis on board the ships at meetings two weeks in a row, Broward County Commissioners did not vote on a solution at this week's meeting on Tuesday. 

Read More: No Broward County Commission Vote On Holland America Cruise 'Humanitarian Crisis'

Passengers on the cruise ships have not been able to leave their rooms since March 22.

The Zaandam cruise began sailing from Buenos Aires, Argentina, on March 7, before the cruise line suspended its operations. Passengers were supposed to be able to get off in Chile, but the ship was denied docking there, as well as several other countries. The Zaandam was previously scheduled to end a second South American cruise on April 7 at Port Everglades.

This story has been updated with new information at 5:00 p.m. Thursday, April 2. It will be updated as new information becomes available.

Caitie Muñoz, formerly Switalski, leads the WLRN Newsroom as Director of Daily News & Original Live Programming. Previously she reported on news and stories concerning quality of life in Broward County and its municipalities for WLRN News.
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