ByPatrick Phillips|March 16, 2020 at 4:00 AM EDT - Updated March 16 at 11:27 AM
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Despite a statement from the cruise line that all arriving passengers in the Port of Charleston would have their temperatures taken as a precaution, some passengers say that did not happen.
The Carnival Cruise ship Sunshine returned to Charleston Monday morning. Carnival spokesperson Christine De La Huerta said in a statement Sunday that each passenger’s temperature would be taken as they leave the ship at the request of local officials.
“There are no reports of any guests or crew with influenza-like illness but we have agreed to the request as we continue to work with public health officials in a constructive manner,” De La Huerta said in that statement.
However, some passengers say they were not screened for fever.
One passenger said her temperature was taken. Another said his temperature was taken before the ship departed on Thursday, but not before he left the ship Monday morning.
A South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control spokesperson said the agency worked with the CDC Cruise Ship Task Force and the ship’s senior physician to ensure no passengers were exhibiting symptoms consistent with COVID-19.
“All 2,441 passengers have been regularly monitored throughout the duration of the trip, which was to Naussau, Bahamas,” the statement read.
As of Monday, no passengers have been reported as having symptoms consistent with COVID-19.
“Information about COVID-19 has been distributed in English and Spanish to the passengers and crew, and anyone who may develop any symptoms consistent with COVID-19 is advised to immediately contact their health care provider,” the statement concluded.
The City of Charleston’s Director of Emergency Management, Shannon Scaff, released a statement after learning that temperatures were not being taken.
“After learning that a cruise ship was set to return to Charleston, city leaders on Saturday asked the state public health department, DHEC, to establish and enforce appropriate medical protocols for those disembarking from the ship," Scaff said. "It’s our understanding that DHEC then worked directly with the cruise ship’s medical staff to fulfill that request.”
Thursday morning’s arrival prompted concerns, complaints
Residents raised concerns Thursdaywhen the Sunshine returned to the port and allowed approximately 3,000 passengers to leave the ship without any screening. Carnival said all passengers were required to have their temperature taken before boarding the ship five days earlier. But there have been no health screenings for the passengers since then.
On Friday, Carnival Cruise Line spokesman Vance Gulliksen saidpassengers were now facing additional questions about their age and health before being allowed to board.
The cruise line is now asking guests if they are age 70 or older, if they have been hospitalized in the past two months or if they have a history of chronic or severe medical conditions,
The CDC defines chronic conditions as an illness persisting for a long time or constantly recurring, such as diabetes, heart, kidney or lung disease. Additional severe medical conditions include suppressed immunity (active cancer, taking steroids) or if the person requires oxygen for any reason.
“Guests with chronic or severe medical conditions will not be allowed to sail,” Gulliksen said. “Additionally, guests 70 years of age or older will not be allowed to sail unless they have a letter from their physician confirming they are fit.”
The company’s website states hand sanitizers are being made available for all staff and passengers. Cruise terminals are cleaned thoroughly before the next embarkation day and all guest and crew buses providing transportation to the terminals are being sanitized after every trip.
The site states certain guests may be subjectto additional screening. Those guests include those traveling from or through Thailand, Vietnam and Taiwan in the last 20 days.
Those who have been to or traveled through China, Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea, Italy, Iran, Japan or Singapore in the last 20 days or those who have been in contact with another person diagnosed with or tested for COVID-19 are not being allowed to sail on Carnival ships, the site states.
Charleston city officials responded to criticism about allowing the cruise ship to arrive, pointing out that the city had no say in such decisions.
“Put plainly, the port at Charleston is a state port, not a city port, and the state of South Carolina has all legal authority regarding cruise ship arrivals and departures,” the city saidon its website.
City leaders say Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg has communicated our concerns about cruise ships to the director of the State Ports Authority and will continue to do so.
Cruise lines to suspend cruises for 30 days at Trump’s request
On Friday night, President Donald Trump announced via Twitterthat Carnival was among four cruise lines that agreed to suspend trips from the U.S. for 30 days, effective at midnight Saturday.
Trump tweeted that Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and MSC Cruises had all agreed to the suspensions.
“The city strongly supports this action to help keep our citizens safe during this public health emergency,” Tecklenburg said.
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