Royal Caribbean Passengers Test Negative for Coronavirus; Cruise Ship Scheduled to Depart NJ

No one in New Jersey or New York has been found with the virus but one patient with symptoms was awaiting test results in New York City as of Friday. Four previous tests from Manhattan and Queens were negative

Associated Press

What to Know

  • Four passengers on Friday were taken to a hospital after their cruise ship arrived in New Jersey for evaluation of coronavirus
  • The outbreak, which began in mainland China, has sickened more than 20,000 people and killed more than 600 to date
  • The CDC has confirmed just 12 cases in the United States, mostly in California; there have been no cases in New Jersey or New York

Four passengers traveling on a cruise ship that returned to New Jersey have tested negative for the new virus that has sickened tens of thousands in mainland China and killed more than 800.

Governor Phil Murphy said all passengers tested negative and "New Jersey currently has no confirmed cases of novel coronavirus and the risk to residents remains low."

Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis tells NBC New York that one of the four travelers who had come from China for the Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas cruise through the Caribbean had a fever on the ship. The person was given Tylenol and the fever went away.

Three others were under close observation and they were taken to University Hospital in Newark, which has negative-pressure isolation rooms, the mayor said. Gov. Phil Murphy added that the hospital was following proper infection control protocols while evaluating the travelers.

Royal Caribbean on Saturday said the four passengers were tested by the CDC, adding that none of them "showed any clinical signs or symptoms of coronavirus."

"One had tested positive onboard for Influenza A," the company noted.

The cruise ship left Bayonne on Jan. 27, according to the itinerary, and returned Friday morning. It was supposed to depart again Friday, but Royal Caribbean announced shortly before noon that trip would be delayed. The company initially said the cruise would depart at 5 p.m. Saturday with a shortened itinerary, but on Saturday said the departure would be pushed to Monday, Feb. 10.

"After the evaluation at the hospital, the Center for Disease Control permitted the four individuals who arrived Friday via a cruise ship to be discharged," Governor Murphy said. "Three of those individuals who stayed in the same cabin were diagnosed with the flu. The other individual stayed in a separate cabin and did not have any symptoms."

The cruise said passengers who decide they no longer want to sail will receive "a full refund."

There's no indication anyone has the coronavirus but the CDC and health officials took 23 others, all Chinese nationals, off the ship after it docked in Bayonne. They will be taken to Newark Airport for a flight back to China.

The mayor said he was told none of the 27 are from Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus, or have traveled there since the outbreak was first identified.

In a statement, Royal Caribbean spokesperson Melissa Charbonneau said the company is participating in "elevated levels of guest screening to check the spread of coronavirus."

Those heightened measures became clearer Friday: Royal Caribbean said its entire fleet would prohibit any guests holding a Chinese, Hong Kong or Macau passport from boarding until further notice, regardless of when they were last in the country.

Regular surgical face masks are not effective in protecting against the coronavirus. A more specialized face mask known as N95 respirators are thicker than surgical masks and are fitted to a person’s face to keep out any viral particles.

"We are closely monitoring developments regarding coronavirus and have rigorous medical protocols in place onboard our ships. We continue to work in close consultation with the CDC, the WHO, and local health authorities to align with their guidance and ensure the health and wellbeing of our guests and crew," Charbonneau continued.

Meanwhile, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey and Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn have been both designated as an emergency camp to quarantine potential patients in the event an outbreak occurs in the U.S.

To date there have been 12 confirmed cases in the United States, mostly in California. The other states where patients have tested positive are Arizona, Washington, Wisconsin, Massachusetts and Illinois, the CDC says.

No one in New Jersey or New York has been found with the virus but one patient with symptoms was awaiting test results in New York City as of Friday. Four previous tests from Manhattan and Queens were negative.

Officials said it typically takes up to 48 hours for results because samples have to be taken and sent to the CDC in Atlanta, Georgia.

However, Mayor de Blasio said that the CDC "has given localities the tools, but we still need our labs to be granted the authority" to test for the illness. The mayor also added that the city is "pushing to speed up this process."

According to the Department of Homeland Security, the majority of foreign nationals who traveled in China within two weeks of their arrival will be denied entry. Exceptions will likely be made to immediate family of U.S. citizens, permanent residents and flight crew.

Confirmed Coronavirus Cases

Source: NBC News, staff reports

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