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Trump Admin. Confirms 21 COVID-19 Infections on Second Cruise Ship

Twenty-one people tested positive for COVID-19 on the Grand Princess cruise ship currently moored off San Francisco, and efforts to move, test and quarantine the passengers are underway.

Of the 46 people tested, 19 crew members and two passengers were positive for the virus, with one test “inconclusive,” Vice President Mike Pence said at a briefing of the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force on Friday night.

He said that likely the crew had a higher portion of positive tests because it was their second tour, and that “we know of coronavirus infections from the first tour as well,” likely referring to the patient in California who died after having been on a previous Grand Princess voyage.

But the vice president added that CDC, the Department of Health and Human Services, and California officials have “developed a plan … to bring the ship into a non-commercial port.”

“All passengers and crew will be tested for the coronavirus,” Pence said. “Those that need to be quarantined will be quarantined. Those that require additional medical attention will receive it.”

Details were sketchy about exactly where the passengers will be housed, but Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the Department of Health and Human Services Robert Kadlec, MD, noted “bases that have been identified before,” such as Travis Air Force Base in northern California and Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

“We’re working with the Department of Defense to identify the appropriate settings — again, realizing that we’re trying to ensure both the safety of the passengers and the safety of communities that are around them,” he said.

Pence added that the 1,100-member crew will be quarantined on board the ship, and will “not need to disembark.”

“The American people can be confident that there will be no erosion in our preventative measures and efforts to keep the coronavirus from spreading throughout our country,” he said.

Pence then turned his attention to what has become the focus of these briefings: the availability of testing for COVID-19. He gave some updated numbers: that this week, more than 900,000 tests were distributed across the country, “including 200,000 that could allow 75,000 individual patients to be tested.”

In addition, another 200,000 will be shipped by Saturday, and by the weekend, it should be 1 million tests. Pence added that “by the end of next week, 4 million tests will be shipped.”

The vice president also announced that commercial laboratories LabCorp and Quest have said their tests will be available by Monday.

“That meets future demand because the enormous capacity of these commercial laboratories and others in the country are precisely how we will make coronavirus tests available for your local doctor, available to your pharmacy, and broadly available to the American public,” Pence said.

Task force member and FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, MD, noted that officials expect “further test surge capacity beyond that, by the end of next week,” though when asked how many people had been tested, he deferred that question to CDC officials, who were not present at this briefing.

In answer to a reporter’s question, Pence said that if providers want to test their patients for COVID-19, they should contact their local public health department about the availability of testing in their state.

The task force continued to warn those who are elderly with “serious underlying conditions” to be extra careful when it comes to travel, especially cruise ship travel, given the disproportionately serious risk to this population.

“We would ask elderly Americans to use common sense and caution in planning any cruise ship vacation in the future,” Pence noted.

A meeting with cruise ship companies is planned for Saturday.

Task force member Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, took it a step further: that elderly people with serious underlying conditions should likely “think twice” before they “go to a place that’s crowded.”

A reporter noted that both the elderly and those with preexisting conditions make up one-third to one-half of the country, and asked if they are being advised not to travel and asked if “major events, major conferences, political rallies” should be canceled because they would include a large portion of that population.

Fauci then clarified the difference between an underlying condition and a “serious underlying condition:”

“Someone who has high blood pressure, is on a blood pressure medication and has got it down pretty well, has an underlying condition. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease that might require intermittent oxygen is a serious underlying condition.”

“There’s a big difference between somebody with controlled hypertension and somebody with congestive heart failure and chronic pulmonary disease,” he said.