(HealthDay News) — As the number of U.S. coronavirus cases climbed past 530 in at least 34 states and the death toll hit 22, the State Department issued an advisory Sunday that urged all Americans to avoid cruise travel.
“U.S. citizens, particularly travelers with underlying health conditions, should not travel by cruise ship,” the State Department advised. “In order to curb the spread of COVID-19, many countries have implemented strict screening procedures that have denied port entry rights to ships and prevented passengers from disembarking. In some cases, local authorities have permitted disembarkation but subjected passengers to local quarantine procedures.”
The statement went even further, adding that, “While the U.S. government has evacuated some cruise ship passengers in recent weeks, repatriation flights should not be relied upon as an option for U.S. citizens under the potential risk of quarantine by local authorities.”
On Monday, a cruise ship held off the coast of California after nearly half of 46 passengers tested positive for COVOD-19 plans to dock in Oakland, where testing and quarantine procedures will begin, the New York Times reported.
Forty percent of the 2,500 passengers on the Grand Princess are California residents who will be quarantined at military bases across the state, the Times said. All Americans who are not state residents will be quarantined at military bases in Texas and Georgia, and foreign nationals will be sent home on charter flights from Oakland International Airport, the newspaper reported.
The ship has been held off the coast since Wednesday, when a man who had traveled on the first leg of the cruise died of COVID-19.
Just last month, 700 people aboard another Princess Cruises ship, the Diamond Princess, became infected with coronavirus while the ship was quarantined for weeks in Yokohama harbor, in Japan.
“Cruise ships are posing probably one of the biggest challenges that we are seeing in this outbreak,” Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, infectious diseases director at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, told CNN. “We know these cruise ships are essentially … we’ve been calling them incubators, they are incredibly very healthy environments for the pathogens that we’re talking about.”
More states struggle with cases
California, Washington state and New York now have the highest number of coronavirus cases in the United States, the Times said. California has 114, while Washington state has 136 and New York has 105.
On Friday, Florida confirmed two travel-related coronavirus deaths, the first reported on the East Coast. So far, the state has reported a dozen cases of coronavirus.
Meanwhile, New York has declared a state of emergency as more than 2,700 New Yorkers have been asked to self-quarantine in the New York City area, the Times reported.
Washington state continued to contend with an outbreak involving the Life Care Center nursing home in the town of Kirkland, CNN reported. State officials said a total of 18 people have now died from COVID-19 infection, with most either living at or connected with the nursing home.
Washington state officials said residents at three more senior care centers have been diagnosed with coronavirus, CNN reported Friday. Two were in Seattle and the other in Issaquah, about 20 miles east of Seattle.
While most people with robust immune systems appear to recover from COVID-19, frail and elderly nursing home residents may be in particular danger, experts noted.
Officials in Seattle say special isolation centers are being opened to house people who may have had contact with people already affected by the new coronavirus.
Scientists say that genetic analysis of the virus in Washington state suggests the coronavirus may have been spreading within the community for as long as six weeks before the first case was detected, the Times reported.
Reacting to the crisis, President Donald Trump on Friday signed an $8.3 billion coronavirus package passed Thursday by the U.S. Congress.
Pence said last week that all restrictions on coronavirus testing would be lifted and the costs of testing would be covered by all forms of health insurance, but he conceded Thursday that “we don’t have enough tests today to meet what we anticipate will be the demand going forward,” the Times reported.
Earlier this month, the Trump administration placed travel restrictions on three foreign countries that are battling COVID-19 outbreaks.
A complete travel ban was issued for Iran, while the highest-level travel advisory was issued for parts of Italy and South Korea. The travel advisory urges Americans to avoid all nonessential travel to affected areas of those two countries.
Coronavirus cases spread across the world
Cases of infection have now been spotted in 104 countries and on every continent except Antarctica, according to the WHO.
WHO has now reported more than 109,343 cases of coronavirus worldwide, including more than 3,809 deaths, the vast majority of which have occurred in China, where the outbreak began.
Internationally, hopes of containing the coronavirus are fading fast.
In Asia, South Korea and Iran are each battling major outbreaks of COVID-19. And in Europe, Italy on Sunday ordered a travel lockdown in its prosperous northern region around Milan, as it tried to contain a major outbreak of COVID-19.
“We are facing an emergency,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said in an early morning news briefing, the Times reported.
In Japan, a state of emergency has been declared in a northern province because of the growing number of coronavirus cases there, the Associated Press reported. Japan has also taken the unusual step of closing all schools for the month of March to protect children.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on the new coronavirus.
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