19 crew members on the Grand Princess cruise ship tested positive for the coronavirus but are not being taken off because they're 'asymptomatic,' the company said
The Grand Princess cruise ship carrying passengers who have tested positive for coronavirus passes the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco, March 9, 2020.
- The coronavirus-stricken Grand Princess cruise ship docked in Oakland on Monday so passengers could leave the ship for quarantines on land.
- But 19 crew members who tested positive for the coronavirus were kept onboard because they were "asymptomatic," according to Princess Cruises.
- The ship is expected to leave the San Francisco Bay with more than 1,000 crew members still onboard.
- The quarantine of the Diamond Princess, a ship from the same cruise line, left crew members in close quarters and vulnerable to the coronavirus' spread.
- For the latest case totals, death tolls, and travel information, see Business Insider's live coronavirus updates here.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
The Grand Princess cruise ship is unloading all of its passengers in Oakland, California after a string of coronavirus cases brought the ship into port.
But 19 crew members who tested positive for the virus will remain on the ship with more than 1,000 other staff, Princess Cruises said in an email update on Tuesday.
The cruise line said that those 19 staff were "asymptomatic."
But some limited research has suggested that infected people who don't have symptoms can pass the coronavirus to others. In one case, a woman in Wuhan, China, passed the virus to five family members without ever getting sick herself.
The Grand Princess arrived in Oakland on Monday after sitting off the coast of the San Francisco Bay Area for four days while officials planned what to do with its passengers. As of Monday night, 407 passengers had left the ship and begun traveling to US military bases for quarantine. Non-US citizens were put onto charter flights.
Two passengers who tested positive for the new coronavirus were transferred to local hospitals.
It's expected to take a few more days to unload the rest of the passengers. Once they have all left the ship, the Grand Princess plans to leave the San Francisco Bay with its entire crew onboard. It is unclear where the ship will go after that.
"Plans for a crew quarantine are still being determined," Princess Cruises said in the email.
An on-ship quarantine in Japan failed, especially for crew members
The Grand Princess cruise ship is from the same line as the Diamond Princess, which hosted one of the largest outbreaks of the new coronavirus outside of China.
The ship sat in the port of Yokohama, Japan, for about three weeks in February as the local government placed everyone on board under quarantine. In the end, more than 700 people who were on the Diamond Princess tested positive for the new coronavirus.
Experts have criticized the Japanese government's decision to keep passengers and crew on the Diamond Princess, and some have said the quarantine procedures may have even helped the virus spread.
"I'd like to sugarcoat it and try to be diplomatic about it, but it failed," Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told USA Today. "People were getting infected on that ship. Something went awry."
Crew members were especially at risk, since they still had to share cabins, bring food to passengers, and eat together in a mess hall.AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko
A crew member moves about the passageways of the quarantined cruise ship Diamond Princess on February 9, 2020, in Yokohama, Japan.
"We all are really scared and tense," Sonali Thakkar, a worker on the Diamond Princess, told CNN during the quarantine.
"There are many places where we all are together, not separated from each other," she added. "Especially when we sit in the same mess hall and eat together, the place where it can spread very fast."
As the case count on the ship rose, some Indian crew members begged their government to rescue them, sharing a series of videos on Facebook. One of them, Binay Kumar Sarkar, told Business Insider that the situation on the ship was "out of control."
"There are lot of people who don't have coronavirus, so why are we all being confined here?" he said. "Please save at least those of us who are healthy."
Public-health experts seemed to agree.
"The quarantine was not justified, and violated the individual rights of the passengers while allowing the virus to literally pick them off one-by-one," Dr. Amesh Adalja with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security previously told Business Insider.
He added, "the whole idea of the cruise ship quarantine was ill-conceived, and the resultant slew of infections it spawned was completely predictable."
'No place is perfect except a hospital'Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty
Crew members aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship are seen at its wheelhouse at the Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama port on February 27, 2020.
Crew members did not begin leaving the Diamond Princess until February 27, after all passengers had disembarked - more than three weeks after the quarantine began.
"Obviously crew members were quite at risk," Shigeru Omi, a health adviser to the Japanese government, said in a press conference on February 24. "On human rights, of course we sympathize, but you know as far as the passengers are still there, they have to provide the service."
Dr. Norio Ohmagari, director of Japan's Disease Control and Prevention Center, told CNN that the quarantine "may not have been perfect" and that "scientifically speaking," crew members should have been isolated just like passengers.
But given the conditions on the ship, crew members could not be completely isolated, Yosuke Kita, a senior coordinator at Japan's Ministry of Health, said in the press conference.
"I admit, our isolation policy was not perfect," Omi said. "No place is perfect except in a hospital."
Do you work for Princess Cruises? Are you a crew member on the Grand Princess? Contact this reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also reach out securely on Signal at 646-768-4730.
Hilary Brueck contributed reporting.
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