Vice President Mike Pence, who has been put in charge of the United States’ efforts against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), announced on Friday that 21 people aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship off the coast of California have tested positive for the virus.
Of those infected, 19 are crew members of the ship, Pence said, while two are passengers. One test was inconclusive, and the rest were negative, according to the vice president.
The patients on board, however, were not notified before the rest of the country at Friday’s press briefing — leaving them wondering who out of the 46 tested had contracted the virus.
An announcement was made over the Grand Princess’ loudspeaker after Pence’s comments, CNN’s Jon Passantino reported on Twitter on Friday, apologizing to the passengers.
“We apologize, but we were not given advance notice of this announcement by the US federal government,” the announcement stated, according to Passantino. “The CDC is currently discussing the individual patient results with the ship’s doctor, who will communicate the result to the patients.”
Passengers “will be notified of their test results as quickly as possible,” the announcement added.
A rep for Princess Cruise Lines confirmed the results that Pence shared in a statement to PEOPLE and said that they were notified of the test results “by Vice President Pence while he was conducting a press conference and simultaneously by the U.S. Centers of Disease Control (CDC) speaking to our shipboard doctor that among the samples tested, 21 people have tested positive for COVID-19 which includes two (2) guests and 19 crew.”
“The ship’s doctor is in the process of informing the guests and crew of their individual results. All guests and affected crew will remain isolated in their rooms,” the statement continued.
“We are awaiting official specific plans for future positioning of the ship from relevant authorities,” the statement added. “Princess Cruises will continue to closely follow the guidance of the CDC and other federal and state government authorities.”
“Guests will continue to be provided complimentary internet and telephone to stay in contact with their families and loved ones, and the ship’s company is working to keep all guests comfortable.”
“The ship has quickly transitioned food & beverage service to provide Room Service for all staterooms,” the statement continued.
“We are working with CDC to determine what additional precautionary measures, if any, will be required.”
“Princess Cruises medical team is collecting information from guests regarding any medication prescription refills needs.”
Pence said at the press briefing on Friday that everyone aboard the ship will be tested, and that some will be quarantined.
The Grand Princess has been waiting off the coast of Northern California since Wednesday night so that those on board could be tested for COVID-19 after an elderly man who had sailed on a previous voyage died of the virus in Placer County and numerous people on board were exhibiting symptoms.
The Coast Guard flew tests to the ship this week.
Pence said that multiple agencies developed a plan to bring the ship into a non-commercial port this weekend so that all the remaining passengers and all crew members can be tested for COVID-19.
“Those that need to be quarantined will be quarantined,” he said. “Those that require additional medical attention will receive it.”
“We are taking all measures necessary to see to the health of Americans and those involved on the Grand Princess,” Pence said.
Princess Cruise Lines previously issued a health advisory letter to those aboard the Grand Princess, which had been returning to San Francisco from Hawaii.
The letter alerted those on board to the fact that the CDC was “investigating a small cluster” of COVID-19 cases in Northern California and asked guests who also sailed on the ship’s previous voyage to remain in their stateroom until they had been contacted and cleared by medical staff.
Mikhail TereshchenkoTASS via Getty
The man who died on Wednesday in California marked the first COVID-19 death for the state and the eleventh for the U.S. The man, who had underlying health conditions, is believed to have contracted COVID-19 while traveling aboard the Grand Princess from February 11 to 21 between San Francisco and Mexico, a Placer County news release said.
He had been isolated at Kaiser Permanente Roseville and “had minimal community exposure between returning from the cruise and arriving at the hospital by ambulance on Feb. 27.”
The Kaiser Permanente healthcare workers and the five emergency responders who came in contact with the patient are currently being quarantined and have not exhibited symptoms of COVID-19.
While from the same cruise line, the Grand Princess should not be confused with the Diamond Princess, which was quarantined in Japan for several weeks after COVID-19 spread among the passengers. Six people reportedly died from the outbreak aboard that ship.