Ten luxury cruise ship passengers who arrived at a Brooklyn harbor Monday after sailing across the Atlantic en route to the Caribbean for the holidays tested positive for COVID-19 and now get to spend Christmas in frigid New York City, officials say.
All travelers on Cunard's Queen Mary 2, which the company bills as the "greatest ocean liner in the world," had to be fully vaccinated and tested for COVID just before they boarded in Britain's Southampton, suggesting these were breakthrough cases.
A total of 1,473 guests were aboard the ship when it reached New York City, so the infections represent less than 1% of all guests onboard. It's not clear how many crew members serve Queen Mary 2. But they won't be serving these 10 for now.
"During routine testing, 10 guests (0.7%) tested positive for COVID-19 and are being disembarked in New York City in line with our framework of protocols and due to the length and complexity of the onward itinerary, which includes a number of Caribbean ports of call and countries," Cunard said in a statement.
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"The ship follows a stringent and approved framework of protocols which were developed with government and public health authorities," it continued.
The COVID-positive guests will have to isolate in New York, which is in the midst of a record-breaking viral surge nearly two years into the pandemic, as the ship continues to the Caribbean. They can rejoin Queen Mary 2 on Jan. 3 when it returns to New York City on the way back to England if they produce negative tests.
It's not clear how often testing is performed on the ship, or whether the requisite pre-embarkation testing is a three-day window or more immediate. It also wasn't known which strain of COVID the travelers had or if rapid tests were used.
Data indicates the new omicron variant replicates so rapidly in airways -- up to 70 times faster than the delta variant -- that it's possible a person's COVID status could change more quickly than with other strains. Experts say if rapid tests are being used, it's advised that they be administered as close to travel time as possible.
Omicron now is the dominant variant in the U.S., federal health officials said Monday, accounting for about three-quarters of new infections last week. It is expected to become the world's most pervasive strain as well.
Queen Mary 2 is hardly the only cruise ship affected by the omicron surge. Nearly 50 people aboard Royal Caribbean's 7,000-passenger Symphony of the Seas, which requires full vaccination for passengers age 12 and up, tested positive for COVID. They had been on a seven-night Caribbean excursion and return to Miami Saturday.