By Ted Scouten


MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Holland America Zaandam and Rotterdam cruise ships are heading towards South Florida.

On board the Zaandam are 193 people with flu-like symptoms, eight with confirmed cases of COVID-19 and four people who have passed away, Holland America said. The ships were scheduled to dock at Port Everglades in April and they still want to come.

However, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis does not want the ships to dock there.

“We think it’s a mistake to be putting people into Southern Florida right now given what we’re dealing with so we would like to have medical personnel simply dispatched to that ship and the cruise lines,” said DeSantis as he visited a coronavirus testing site in the parking lot of the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens Monday morning.

South Florida already has a high number of new coronavirus infections and that rate is growing. He said the area’s hospital beds need to be saved for residents and not “foreign nationals.”

“The problem is that takes resources away from the folks of South Florida and yes we do have available beds, but I don’t want to be in a situation where those beds could have gone to Floridians.”

The Zandaam left Argentina on March 7 and has not been allowed to dock for more than two weeks. A sister ship, the Rotterdam, took on healthy passengers and transferred medical supplies and staff over the weekend. They were allowed through the Panama Canal on Sunday night and are about three days from Florida.

Panamanian officials said they allowed the Zaandam and the Rotterdam to transit at the canal because of special humanitarian conditions.

There were a total of 1,243 passengers and 586 crew members on the ship originally, said Holland America, which is owned by Miami-based Carnival Corp.

The company has not confirmed whether or not the four people on the Zaandam died from COVID-19.

The administrator of the Panama Canal, however, said the new coronavirus was the cause of at least two of the four deaths. Administrator Ricaurte Vásquez also said the pilots who led the ships through the locks would be placed in a 14-day quarantine — and that other ships should not expect similar help.

It is not known at this time where or when they will be able to dock.

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DeSantis says he has been in contact with the Coast Guard and the White House about diverting the ship.

Broward County officials will meet Tuesday to decide whether to let the ship dock at its Port Everglades cruise ship terminal, where workers who greet passengers were among Florida’s first confirmed coronavirus cases.

“Clearly what must be done is that we save the people of South Florida and Florida,” said Broward Mayor Dale Holness said Monday.

Holness wants to take a closer look at the governor’s idea.

“As the governor says the possibility of having them treated on ship is one that should be taken into serious consideration.”

Broward Commissioner Barbara Sharief is in favor of bringing the ship into Port Everglades. She points out there are Americans on board and it’s not right to leave them floating around in the ocean.

“Americans if they are on that ship they need to come home. I also feel like humanitarianly we just have to give aid where we have to give aid,” said Sharief.

Sharief is a nurse practitioner.  She thinks the that ship should be granted permission to dock and people on board should get help and not be turned away.

“An American on a ship must come home. That defies, I mean the fact that you’re an American citizen and America can tell you to go away and stay in the middle of the ocean and get sick, absolutely not. That’s not American.”

Port Everglades officials said Holland America must submit a plan before arrival that addresses a long list of requirements for entry into the port.

For those with family members on board the Zaandam, they can call 1-877-425-2231 or 1-206-626-7398.

Ted Scouten

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