Ship turned away by Asia ports carrying new crew to Alaska

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A cruise ship turned away from ports in Asia over fears of a new virus will be cleaned to federal standards and carry a different crew when the vessel docks in Alaska, officials said.

The MS Westerdam is expected to undergo a cleaning protocol approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before arriving in Juneau, The Juneau Empire reported Sunday.

The ship is scheduled to dock in the port around March 22 after being denied permission to enter five ports over concerns about the virus that causes the disease called COVID-19.

One passenger on the Holland America Line ship initially tested positive for the virus, but the CDC later said the test result was a false-positive.

Passengers have disembarked from the ship carrying 500 to 700 crew members, who will remain in Juneau for several weeks before resuming the its regular cruise schedule.

Alaska Department of Health Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum says the crew is different than the one that was aboard when the ship was turned away from Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand, and the U.S. territory of Guam before making port in Cambodia.

Juneau officials do not have a reason to believe there is a concern with the health of the crew, while the city is “cautiously monitoring” the ship’s status, Deputy City Manager Mila Cosgrove said.

The City and Borough of Juneau would not be able to prevent the Westerdam from staying in the port without declaring a civil emergency, which would require a reason to believe the ship presents a danger to residents, Cosgrove said.

“We’re obviously not going to put the community at risk,” Cosgrove said.

COVID-19 is caused by a member of the coronavirus family that is a close cousin to the SARS and MERS viruses that have caused outbreaks in the past.

As of Sunday there were 109,000 reported COVID-19 infections and 3,800 deaths worldwide.

Virus symptoms can include fever, runny nose, cough and breathing trouble.

Most develop only mild cases. But some people, usually those with other medical complications, develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal.