Passengers on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship were screened for the novel coronavirus after docking in Bayonne, according to Mayor James Davis.
However, after further medical evaluation, Mayor Davis confirmed on Feb. 8 that the test results for the novel coronavirus for the screened passengers on Anthem of the Seas came back negative.
Gov. Phil Murphy also announced the negative tests results in a statement later in the day. According to the Governor, the patients tested positive for the flu.
“After the evaluation at the hospital, the Centers for Disease Control permitted the four individuals who arrived Friday via a cruise ship to be discharged,” Gov. Murphy said. “Three of those individuals who stayed in the same cabin were diagnosed with the flu. The other individual stayed in a separate cabin and did not have any symptoms.”
The Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas docked at the Cape Liberty Cruise Port around 6 a.m. on Feb. 7.
“I have been briefed on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship arriving this morning,” Mayor Davis said in a statement. “I am certain that the NJ Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey are prepared and equipped to address any concerns this morning.”
Davis said that approximately two dozen passengers were screened for the novel coronavirus, a respiratory infection caused by a new virus that originated in Wuhan, China in 2019.
Gov. Phil Murphy confirmed that the 27 passengers who were screened had recently traveled to Mainland China.
“Personnel from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention boarded a cruise ship docked in Bayonne this morning and screened 27 passengers who recently traveled from mainland China,” Murphy said in a statement.
In an update, Davis said four of the passengers that were screened by the CDC were sent to Newark University Medical Center for further screening.
According to Murphy, the remaining 23 passengers were cleared while evaluations of the four other passengers continue.
“After being assessed by the CDC, 23 of those passengers were cleared, and four individuals are being evaluated at an area hospital,” Murphy said. “The hospital is following proper infection control protocols while evaluating these individuals.”
Davis said he was advised that the CDC considers this a “Below Low Risk” situation. All other passengers were released with no action needed.
“New Jersey currently has no confirmed cases of novel coronavirus, and the risk to residents remains low,” Murphy said on Feb. 7.
The Governor reconfirmed this on Feb. 10 after the CDC evaluation cleared the 4 passengers of the novel coronavirus.
Royal Caribbean tweets statement on coronavirus
Royal Caribbean responded to customer concerns and media prompts on Twitter.
“Like airports, we are participating in elevated levels of guest screening to check the spread of coronavirus,” Royal Caribbean said in a statement. “We are closely monitoring developments regarding coronavirus and have rigorous medical protocols in place onboard our ships.”
Royal Caribbean said it continues to work closely with the CDC, the World Health Organization (WHO), and local health authorities to ensure the health and well-being of guests and crew.
“We’re currently working closely with our Government Relations Department and local authorities to ensure that we understand the needs and requirements of each port and that they understand all of the precautionary measures,” Royal Caribbean said.
Royal Caribbean said that preventive measures would be taken to ensure the safety of those on board in the future.
“The health and safety of our guests and our crew is our utmost priority,” Royal Caribbean continued. “At this time, we’re performing extensive health screenings on many guests and will be sanitizing the ship to ensure all future guests are safe.”
Royal Caribbean said it will be conducting enhanced sanitation in the cruise terminal and on board, as part of ongoing illness prevention efforts. The company reiterated there were no current plans to cancel future voyages on the Anthem of the Seas.
“We’re still scheduled to sail, and if you choose to cancel, regular cancellation penalties would apply,” a spokesperson for Royal Caribbean told a customer on Twitter.
As soon as there are updates or changes being implemented to any sailings due to the virus, the company said it will let guests know via email.
At press time, Royal Caribbean said there were no confirmed diagnoses of the novel coronavirus among passengers who were screened in Bayonne.
According to Royal Caribbean, the four guests being tested by the CDC showed no clinical signs and symptoms of coronavirus.
However, to reassure its guests, Royal Caribbean postponed the next cruise departure for the Anthem of the Seas until Monday, Feb. 10.
Gov. Murphy establishes Coronavirus Task Force
Gov. Murphy signed an executive order on Monday, Feb. 3, establishing the Coronavirus Task Force to coordinate all New Jersey efforts to prepare for and respond to the public health hazard posed by the novel coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, China in December of 2019.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the novel coronavirus, officially known as 2019-nCov, has been identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness.
For confirmed novel coronavirus infections, reports range from people with few to no symptoms to people being severely ill and dying. Symptoms can include fever, cough, and shortness of breath, the CDC said.
The CDC believes at this time that symptoms of the novel coronavirus may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 after exposure.
“With the outbreak and rapid spread of coronavirus around the world, it is critical that New Jersey has strong preparedness protocols in place,” Murphy said.
The Coronavirus Task Force is chaired by Judith Persichilli, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health. Persichilli said New Jersey residents are not at high risk despite the ongoing outbreak.
In addition to managing the state’s preparation and response to the novel coronavirus, the task force will coordinate the state’s partnership with the federal government and Newark Liberty International Airport to ensure effective communications and dissemination of information.
Murphy noted that Newark Liberty will serve as one of 11 major airports in the United States authorized to receive flights from China that require enhanced entry screening for the coronavirus.
The task force will also coordinate with hospitals and other health care facilities to manage preparations for the possible treatment of patients demonstrating coronavirus symptoms or risks.
As part of the preparedness activities, the Murphy Administration launched a webpage with resources regarding the novel coronavirus, including travel updates and advisories and guidance sent to health care providers, local health departments, infection preventionists, and other health partners.
The free, 24-hour hotline for the public to ask questions about the novel coronavirus is 1-800-222-1222.
According to the governor, New Jersey has no confirmed cases of novel coronavirus at this time.
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.