The MS Zaandam cruise ship has been the center of attention as of late as over 1,400 passengers faced a COVID-19 outbreak. The ship was unable to port for a long time and spent nearly two weeks in a holding pattern, floating between countries as it was on a South American trip when the coronavirus pandemic reached the Americas.
Chile, Peru, and Argentina all closed their ports before the cruise ship could touch land. The Holland America-owned vessel had no choice but to heade for Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The passengers of MS Zaandam were forced to spend multiple days around the coast of Florida as Governor Ron DeSantis and other of the state’s officials didn’t allow them to disembark.
“We cannot afford to have people who are not even Floridians dumped into South Florida using up those valuable resources,” DeSantis said Monday, March 30.
At the time about a dozen of the ship’s passengers had tested positive for COVID-19, nearly 200 had flu-like symptoms, and 4 people had died.
“People are getting sick, and they need proper medical attention in a hospital. They cannot be treated onboard,” one 63-year-old passenger of the cruise ship said. “The people on this boat, we are all someone’s parent, grandparent, aunt and uncle. The governor should think, ‘What if my mother was on that boat?'”
Fortunately, the situation was eventually resolved. On Friday, April 3, the ship was finally allowed to touch dry land at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. 14 of the Zaandam passengers were critically ill and immediately wheeled off to several Florida hospitals while the healthy passengers were taken by busses directly to the airport.
The MS Zaandam wasn’t the only ship that ported in Fort Lauderdale – its sister-ship, the Rotterdam, also ported there as it too carried multiple infected people. The two ships had even met at sea a week ago to exchange passengers in an attempt to transfer the healthy passengers from Zaandam to Rotterdam as the second ship seemed clear of the disease at the time.
The passengers all wore masks and were helped and escorted by paramedics and airline workers who also wore protective gear and masks.
On the same day, the two ships disembarked in Florida, President Trump said that he worked personally with Gov. Ron DeSantis and with military doctors “to take care of these people” and help “the humanitarian catastrophe.”
“We (couldn’t) let them float aimlessly into the ocean looking for port as they’ve been doing for a long time and I made the decision we had to take them,” Trump added.
These statements are in stark contrast to his stance on the Grand Princess cruise ship situation from the beginning of March when the President tried to stop the cruise from disembarking on American soil as “that would make the US coronavirus numbers to double”.
“Fortunately” for the president, with 322,995 COVID-19 cases in the U.S. as of April 5, the dozen or so infected people on the Zaandam and the Rotterdam didn’t cause the numbers to double this time.
Something that is truly fortunate is that over 2,000 of the ill-fated passengers from both the Zaandam and the Rotterdam were asymptomatic.
26 symptomatic passengers are still on the MS Zaandam, however, and will remain there until they stop exhibiting symptoms. The rest of the crew will also remain on board with them.