LOS ANGELES - American crew members from the Holland America Line are stuck on a cruise ship now docked at the Port of San Pedro because of coronavirus concerns.
According to crew member, Melinda Mann, from Georgia, she and other crew members reported to work on the Oosterdam ship on February 21 in San Diego. They were prepared to work their routine cruise ship stints, but when coronavirus began to spread, passengers were taken off of the ship on March 14.
"I had actually asked to be released early from my contract because I kind of saw where COVID was heading and I said hey can I go home early and they said yeah we'll try to get you off on the 21st of March, well here we are and it's past the 21st of April and I'm still here," said Mann.
Mann said there are around 750 crew members on the ship, nine are American. The crew has been locked down for 45 days.
"The US government won't let us in, specifically the CDC. I'm not sick. I've offered to take a COVID test. I've offered to quarantine for 2 weeks ashore, but the CDC won't let us in, and our ship is trying everything they can to get us home," said Mann.
Mann said the government is concerned about coronavirus, but they don't know if anyone on the ship is even sick because they haven't been offering testing on the cruise.
"Honestly it's just horrible. I miss my family quite a lot. I spend 21 hours a day in my cabin. My cabin is around 200 square feet. I'm allowed out for meals and a quick walking break around the ship. I haven't hugged or touched anybody in 45 days," said Mann.
Mann said she was told she would be arrested for "violating a quarantine" if she walked off of the ship to go home. She said she just wants to get back home.
"I've been in contact with my senators, I've called the CDC, I've called U.S. Coast Guard. We've contacted everyone! The only way to get out of this, so we have been told, is by an act of Congress, an act of the President, or an act of the courts so we might be here for the long haul if the CDC doesn't change its mind," said Mann.
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Holland America Line released a statement:
"No crew were permitted to disembark from Oosterdam today. We continue to work with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) to obtain approval to disembark crew in the U.S. for immediate return home under their current No Sail Order which does not allow us to do so at this time, including for U.S. citizens."
"We are working to repatriate thousands of crew who come from over 100 countries around the world. Our entire company remains focused on returning them safely home to their loved ones as soon as possible."
A CDC spokeswoman on Wednesday said in a statement:
"CDC has and continues to work with the cruise industry to repatriate crew while protecting the crew, their communities, and our Nation from a pandemic that has claimed over 50,000 lives and infected over 1 million people in the U.S. In light of ongoing outbreaks of COVID-19 on cruise ships and the continued spread of COVID-19 by those disembarking cruise ships, CDC extended its No Sail Order on April 9, 2020 (effective April 15, 2020) suspending all cruise ship operations in U.S. waters."
"Under this order, the cruise lines must develop and implement a comprehensive plan to prevent, detect, respond, and contain COVID-19 on cruise ships for both passengers and crew."
"While these plans are under review, CDC permits cruise ships to disembark their crew members if cruise line executives—including the Chief Medical Officer, the Chief Compliance Officer, and the Chief Executive Officer—attest that the cruise line has complied with requirements for the safe disembarkation of crew."
"CDC has informed all cruise lines operating ships in U.S. waters, including Holland America Line and its parent company, the Carnival Corporation, of these safety requirements, which includes arranging non public transportation. Given the unprecedented nature of COVID-19 pandemic and the high risk of COVID-19 spread on cruise ships, it is critical for cruise lines to attest that they have taken the necessary steps to safeguard America’s health and safety when disembarking crew members."
"In the last two weeks, other cruise lines have provided signed attestations to disembark crew members. And CDC has approved those disembarkations."
"But here, neither Holland America nor Carnival provided the attestation despite requests from CDC. The refusal of Holland America and Carnival executives to attest to safe disembarkation conditions is the reason why CDC did not approve disembarkation for the Oosterdam crew. In conversations with CDC, an official of the companies complained that arranging nonpublic transportation for its disembarking crew was too expensive."
"Because Holland America and Carnival failed to provide the safety attestation, disembarkation would have violated the No Sail Order and federal laws, which carry criminal penalties. Therefore, CDC, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, California Department of Public Health, Los Angeles County Health Department, and the Los Angeles Police Department worked together to enforce the No Sail Order."
"Rather than comply with the No Sail Order and disembark its American crew, the Oosterdam departed."
"CDC has an obligation to ensure that cruise disembarkations do not harm public health. CDC stands ready to fulfill that obligation and authorize disembarkation as soon as Holland America and Carnival assure local, State, and Federal health authorities that the companies have taken sufficient precautions."
"It’s unfortunate that the American crew members were not allowed to disembark. But we hope that Holland America and Carnival will take the necessary steps to ensure that their crew members get home safely without risking the health and safety of our communities."
"CDC thanks its Federal, State, and local partners for their strong support as we work together to combat the spread of COVID-19 and protect America."