Cruise ships whose passengers have died from coronavirus allowed to dock in Florida

Cruise ships with passengers who died from coronavirus permitted to dock in Florida

Two cruise ships that have passengers with coronavirus cases and others who have died were granted approval to dock at a Florida port Thursday after nearly three weeks at sea.

The Zaandam and Rotterdam cruise ships, whose passengers on board have become ill, dead or are showing signs of the coronavirus, will be allowed to dock at Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale Mayor Mayor Dean Trantalis said Thursday on social media.

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The Coast Guard, Homeland Security, state and federal health officials and Broward County reached the decision, Trantalis said.

Four people had died aboard the Zaandam before some of the passengers were transferred to the Rotterdam. At least two of the deaths were caused by the coronavirus, ship officials said.

“Many residents of our community have been apprehensive about this possibility, fearful that the ships’ arrival here could contribute to the spread of the virus locally," Trantalis said. “I met yesterday with the president of Holland America to share these concerns. Holland America agreed to a strict set set of protocols if the county decided to allow the ships to dock. They are representing to us that these protocols are intended to protect our community by ensuring there is no contact with local residents.”

There are 442 passengers and 603 crew members aboard the Zaandam. There are 808 passengers and 583 crew on the Rotterdam. At least nine passengers have tested positive for the coronavirus and 230 sick with flu-like symptoms. Holland America said 45 passengers who are mildly sick will continue to recover aboard the ship. Ten people need to be taken to a Fort Lauderdale hospital for care.

Trantalis outlined the plan for those who disembark:

“The vast majority of passengers are not ill and have no symptoms. They will be placed on private chartered buses, taken directly to the airport tarmac and board chartered flights out of our community," he said. "A small number of critically ill passengers will go to local hospitals. Others who are mildly ill or have symptoms will be quarantined at sea on the ships until they recover.”

Among those on the Zaandam is a couple from Mount Dora, Florida. The son of the man who is on board said his father has been sick with flu-like symptoms on the ship.

The Zaandam embarked on a trip on March 7 from Buenos Aires, Argentina, with the voyage scheduled to end in San Antonio, Chile, on Saturday, March 21.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.