Thousands prepare to get off cruise ship hit by virus in California

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Federal and state officials in California were preparing Monday to receive thousands of people from a cruise ship that has been idling off the coast of San Francisco with at least 21 people aboard infected with the coronavirus.

Fences were being installed at an 11-acre site at the Port of Oakland, as authorities readied flights and buses to whisk the more than 2,000 passengers aboard the Grand Princess to military bases or their home countries for a 14-day quarantine. More than 3,500 on the ship hail from 54 countries.

“We’re making every effort to get them off the ship as safely and quickly as possible,” said Dr. John Redd of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, who urged passengers to remain in their rooms.

As the U.S. death toll from the virus reached at least 21 and the number of cases worldwide soared above 110,000, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and the mayor of Oakland sought to reassure the public that none of the Grand Princess passengers would be exposed to the U.S. public before completing the quarantine. The number of infections in the United States climbed above 500 as testing for the virus increased.

The Port of Oakland was chosen for docking because of its proximity to an airport and a military base, Newsom said. U.S. passengers will be transported to military bases in California, Texas and Georgia, where they’ll be tested for the COVID-19 virus and quarantined.

About 1,100 crew on the ship, 19 of whom have tested positive for the new virus, will be quarantined and treated aboard the ship, which will dock elsewhere, Newsom said.

“That ship will turn around — and they are currently assessing appropriate places to bring that quarantined ship — but it will not be here in the San Francisco Bay,” he said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the National Institutes of Health’s infectious diseases chief, said Sunday that widespread closure of a city or region, as Italy has done, is “possible.” U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said communities will need to start thinking about canceling large gatherings, closing schools and letting more employees work from home, as many companies have done in the Seattle, Washington, area amid an outbreak at a care home that has killed 17.

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