Florida will allow two cruise ships impacted by a coronavirus outbreak to disembark most of their 2,500 passengers after Holland America Line ships struck a deal with local and federal officials following a contentious battle.
Governor Ron DeSantis faced intense pressure to allow the vessels to dock as numerous fatalities were reported and sick passengers were quarantined to their cabins, many of them lacking windows and medical resources.
Holland America’s president Orlando Ashford penned a desperate plea to state officials in a local Florida newspaper earlier this week, writing: “The COVID-19 situation is one of the most urgent tests of our common humanity. To slam the door in the face of these people betrays our deepest human values."
Local Democratic officials meanwhile blasted the governor’s response to the stranded vessels, after Mr DeSantis told Fox News: “We cannot afford to have people who are not even Floridians dumped into South Florida using up those valuable resources.”
Donna Shall (D—FL) described the opposition as “immoral” in an interview with CNN, adding: “Look, the British, the Germans, no one in the world is turning away Americans if they have coronavirus in their countries. We have to admit them.”
The governor was also encouraged to admit the cruise ships from federal officials, as well as Dr Anthony Fauci, who serves on the White House coronavirus response task force. The infectious disease expert told CBS News it was “absolutely necessary” for Mr DeSantis to provide the vessels entry into Florida, adding that the US had an “obligation” to help the sick passengers.
Donald Trump even reportedly stepped in and implored Florida to allow the ships entry.
At least 97 passengers and 136 crew members were exhibiting flu-like symptoms after four people died on one of the ships, according to the cruise liner.
The cruise company coordinated immediate critical care for those patients with a local health system in southern Florida, CNN reported.
"We are going to be willing to accept Floridians on board," Mr DeSantis told reporters on Thursday. "My understanding is most of the passengers are foreign nationals."
Holland America celebrated the announcement in a statement on Thursday while calling for “compassions” during the pandemic.
"We appreciate the support of President Trump in resolving the humanitarian plight of our guests," the statement read. "Holland America Line calls for compassion and reason in the review and approval of our disembarkation plan by Florida officials."
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