MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Hundreds of healthy cruise ship passengers began to disembark from the Coral Princess Sunday at PortMiami for their journey home. Two people on the ship died of the coronavirus and a 71-year-old man, Wilson Maa, died late Saturday night after arriving at the Port. The ship had been denied docking by 3 countries after it was announced that 12 people onboard had COVID-19.
Sunday, eight more people were taken to the hospital and Congressman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell now want local authorities to investigate the handling of Wilson Maa.
Authorities said Maa died after waiting for hours to be evacuated from the ship after it had been finally allowed to dock Saturday in PortMiami. The coronavirus-stricken ship with 1,020 passengers and 878 crew members had been in limbo for days off the Florida coast.
Maa’s family told CBS4 news partner the Miami Herald that while five others suffering from the virus were evacuated to hospitals earlier in the day, he was forced to stay aboard, breathing with the aid of a manual ventilator for several hours.
“Doctor insisted that public and private hospital beds with a ventilator are not available,” Maa’s son-in-law, Jason Chien, told the Herald. “He also says the ship is running low on oxygen but are not able to get a resupply due to the governor or Miami area having a ‘lockdown’ on ambulances or something like that.”
The cruise line did not respond to questions from CBS4 News.
Maa’s condition began deteriorating at around 5 p.m., according to the family, and by around 10 p.m. an ambulance finally picked up him from the ship and took him to Larkin Community Hospital’s Hialeah campus.
His wife, Toyling Maa, also has tested positive for COVID-19. County officials confirm she was taken from the ship to a hospital on Sunday. Her condition is not known.
Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell is calling for an investigation into Maa’s death.
In statement, Mucarsel-Powell wrote, in part, “It’s devastating and exasperating that we will never know if Mr. Maa’s death could have been prevented with a swift and urgent medical response that this situation deserved.”
She added, “I call for an immediate investigation into this matter by local authorities and for a clear and transparent process to be communicated as to how COVID-19 symptomatic or positive cruise line passengers should disembark ships and quickly access life-saving medical care.”
Meantime, the cruise line confirms an unknown number of healthy travelers were taken from PortMiami to Miami International Airport Sunday afternoon and evening for charter flights home. However, only healthy passengers heading to California, Australia, and the United Kingdom were allowed to leave the ship since those are the only charter flights so far.
The travelers and crew have been on the ship since March 5th. They were in the middle of their voyage when Princess Cruises announced it was suspending cruises because of coronavirus spreading.
Princess Cruises says getting healthy passengers off the ship will take longer because the CDC recently changed federal guidelines. These passengers can no longer travel on commercial flights. When it comes to ground transportation they’re not allowed to be with non-cruise ship guests.
The cruise company released a statement in part: “All guests are being screened as directed by the CDC before disembarkation of the vessel. During disembarkation, and until they reach their homes, guests are required to wear a mask and practice social distancing measures. Those with respiratory symptoms, or who are still recovering, will remain on board until medically cleared by the ship’s doctors. Further details on disembarkation will be shared once available.“
The office of Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez says the decision for the vessel to dock was the Coast Guard’s along with Customs and Border Protection and the CDC.
“We continue to work at the Port of Miami to offload passengers and crew and get them to their homes as quickly as possible, while also helping some very sick patients get the medical care they need,” Mayor Giménez said in a video released Sunday.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue officials also confirm they helped take eight people to the hospital from the ship Sunday. Their conditions are unknown.
Firefighters also replaced oxygen tanks that were critically low on the cruise ship.
The mayor’s office also confirmed five people were taken off the ship Saturday, prior to Maa who was taken by private ambulance but later died.
Two other Coral Princess passengers died on Friday night before the ship was allowed to dock. The ship had been on a South American cruise that was due to end March 19 in Buenos Aires. Since then, the ship encountered obstacles to docking because of various port closures and cancellation of airline flights.
Passengers have self-isolated in their staterooms and meals have been delivered by room service. Crew members also have remained in their quarters when they are not working.
The Coast Guard said in a news release Saturday it has been involved with processing about 120 vessels carrying some 250,000 passengers over the past three weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic.