Grand Princess cruise ship docks in Oakland amid COVID-19 concerns

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The docking of the Grand Princess cruise ship Monday has sparked a conversation about those affected by COVID-19, the new coronavirus, and those in charge of California’s preventative measures.

The 3,500-passenger ship, which docked at the Port of Oakland at about noon, holds passengers who tested positive for COVID-19. Passengers who do not require acute medical care were moved to quarantines at respective military bases in California, Texas and Georgia. About 1,000 passengers aboard the cruise ship are California residents.

“The City of Oakland, Alameda County and the Port of Oakland are stepping up in a major way, and their residents deserve universal praise,” said California Gov. Gavin Newsom in a press release. “They are showing the world what makes our state great — coming to the rescue of thousands of people trapped aboard this ship and helping tackle a national emergency.”

Oakland City Council, however, was not consulted in the decision to dock the cruise ship at the Port of Oakland, according to a press release from Rebecca Kaplan, Oakland City Council president. Kaplan alleged that the city of San Francisco “refused” to accept the ship it previously contracted, so the state “stepped in” to find an alternative strategy.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said the operation would minimize the time the ship docked in Oakland and that no passengers would be released into the Oakland community. There are lingering concerns, however, about personnel who will work to assist, process and transport the passengers, according to Kaplan.

“I have also asked about what will happen for the personnel who will be working with the passengers, and not received answers,” Kaplan said in a press release.

Neither the Port of Oakland nor the Port of San Francisco could be reached for comment as of press time.

The cruise ship docking is part of a larger conversation in Berkeley and surrounding cities about the safety and sanitation of travel in light of rising international rates of COVID-19.

Both BART and AC Transit have increased the cleanings of their trains and buses. AC Transit released a series of tweets March 2 that showed the bleach-based disinfectant used on fare boxes, Clipper card readers, handrails and other commonly touched surfaces.

AC Transit does not have plans to reduce its service delivery to its riders but is monitoring updates from local schools and health officials daily, according to AC Transit spokesperson Robert Lyles. Lyles added that the company has not experienced a noticeable reduction in ridership.

BART, meanwhile, has seen an 8% reduction in its ridership over the last week, according to BART spokesperson Alicia Trost. The transit agency is communicating with vendors to explore the installation of hand sanitizer dispensers in its stations. As of press time, hand sanitizer is available to all BART employees.

Trost added that BART only intends to shut down if mandated by public health officials.

While UC Berkeley does not have any reported cases of COVID-19, campus officials sent a campuswide email around 1:25 p.m. Monday moving all lectures online. The regulation will be effective until March 29.

“We have not had a documented case on the Berkeley campus and we’d like to keep it that way,” said Arthur Reingold, campus professor of epidemiology. “As testing is done, we will uncover one or more individuals with the infection. We’re trying to be proactive and trying to reduce contacts with students in the classroom setting for next two to three weeks.”

Although public health and campus officials have encouraged public hand-washing campaigns and social distancing measures, Kaplan highlighted the risks to large portions of the community population who lack access to hand-washing facilities. She has since urged state officials to provide protection for those struggling to prevent the spread of communicable diseases.

Reingold said it could be 12 to 18 months before there is a vaccine for COVID-19. As such, he added, it was important to control and mitigate the disease’s spread.

“For testing a large amount of people, there’s still a lot of scaling up to do,” Reingold said.

As of press time, the Port of Oakland continues to wait for the full disembarkment of the Grand Princess cruise ship.

Contact Alex Casey at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @acasey.