A coronavirus patient who had recently traveled on the Grand Princess cruise ship has died in California, the state confirmed, and the ship is now headed for San Francisco.
The Grand Princess is expected to arrive near the city on Thursday afternoon. California Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a press conference on Wednesday afternoon that the ship will be held off the coast. He also declared a state of emergency for California.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating a "small cluster" of cases connected to the ship, according to a statement that the company, Princess Cruises, sent to passengers on Wednesday.
Some passengers have started to show symptoms, Newsom said.
Instead of heading to Ensenada, Mexico, as scheduled, the ship is cutting its voyage short.
The Grand Princess is from the same line as the Diamond Princess, which hosted one of the largest outbreaks of the new coronavirus outside China. More than 700 people who were on board the Diamond Princess tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new virus. The ship sat in the port of Yokohama, Japan, for weeks as the local government placed everyone on board under quarantine.
Newsom said the Grand Princess will not initially be allowed to dock in the port of San Francisco, and that officials will instead fly coronavirus tests out to the ship.
"The CDC is continuing to actively collect information and has set up a meeting with us this morning to determine what, if any, actions need to be taken during this cruise and on arrival in San Francisco," the cruise line said on Wednesday. "We have shared essential travel and health data with the CDC to facilitate their standard notification to the State and County health authorities to follow up with individuals who may have been exposed to people who became ill."
It added: "We anticipate that further review of the situation will be necessary on arrival in San Francisco."
Next steps for the Grand Princess are not yet clear
The patient who died of the coronavirus in California was on the Grand Princess from February 11 to 21. At least one other confirmed coronavirus case in California — a person in Sonoma County — was on the cruise at the same time as the patient who died.
Some passengers still on board were also on that trip.
"For those guests who sailed with us on our previous voyage and may have been exposed, in an abundance of caution, the CDC requires you to remain in your stateroom until you have been contacted and cleared by our medical staff," the company said.
It is not clear yet whether other passengers — those not on the previous voyage — were also asked to stay in their rooms.
Newsom said state authorities are following up with the other passengers who were on the previous voyage but left when that cruise ended.
Experts have criticized the way Japan's government quarantined Diamond Princess passengers and crew on that ship.
"I admit, our isolation policy was not perfect," Shigeru Omi, a health adviser to the Japanese government, said at a press conference on February 24. "No place is perfect except in a hospital."
It is not yet known what the CDC plans to do if more people on the Grand Princess test positive for COVID-19. The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did Princess Cruises.
"We are closely recording and monitoring all persons who have reported to the medical center with cold and flu symptoms during the voyage. As a precaution, we are also conducting additional enhanced environmental disinfection onboard in addition to our regular stringent cleaning and sanitation protocols," Princess Cruises said in its statement to passengers.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.