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Virus scare confines thousands on a cruise ship off California’s coast

by AP

The Grand Princess was forbidden to dock in San Francisco amid evidence that the vessel was the breeding ground for the virus

 AP Photo

San Francisco: Thousands of people were confined to a cruise ship circling in international waters off the San Francisco Bay Area Saturday after 21 passengers and crew members tested positive for the new coronavirus.

The Grand Princess was forbidden to dock in San Francisco amid evidence that the vessel was the breeding ground for a deadly cluster of more than 10 cases during its previous voyage.

Meantime, Florida reported two coronavirus deaths — the first outside of the West Coast. Health officials said two people in their 70s who had traveled overseas died in Santa Rosa County in Florida’s Panhandle and in the Fort Myers area. Florida also raised the number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19, the new virus strain, from four to seven.

The U.S. death toll from the virus climbed to 16, with all but three victims in Washington state. The number of infections swelled to over 200, scattered across about half the states. Pennsylvania, Indiana, Minnesota, and Nebraska reported their first cases.

In California, state authorities were working with federal officials around-the-clock to bring the Grand Princess cruise ship to a non-commercial port over the weekend and test everyone for the virus. There was no immediate word on where the vessel will dock.

Two passengers on the ship said Friday night that the captain has notified them they are moving to a location 20 miles off the coast for easier delivery of supplies. The captain said a guest requires medical attention and maybe airlifted out, the passengers said.

While health officials said about 1,100 crew members will remain aboard, passengers could be disembarked to face quarantine, possibly at U.S. military bases or other sites. That’s what happened to hundreds of passengers who were exposed to the virus on another cruise ship in January.

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