At least 17 passengers and crew who have disembarked from a Norwegian Cruise Lines ship docked in New Orleans have tested positive for COVID-19, including one suspected Omicron case.
Nine crew members and eight passengers were infected when the Norwegian Breakaway arrived on Sunday, a Louisiana Department of Health spokeswoman said Monday.
None had any symptoms and only fully vaccinated people are allowed on board, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) said. All passengers who tested positive were required to either self-isolate in company-provided accommodation, or to drive themselves home. All passengers on the ship were also provided with at-home rapid COVID-19 test kits.
The cruise line – which previously set sail from New Orleans and made stops in Belize and Mexico – has already set sail with a new group of passengers. The cruise line said all passengers who boarded the Norwegian Breakaway on Sunday were offered a chance to cancel without penalty.
The company did not immediately respond to DailyMail.com queries about whether any did cancel or how many passengers the ship now carries.
‘Guests who opt to sail must wear masks while indoors except while actively eating or drinking and will be tested twice during the cruise,’ the statement said.
The Breakaway can carry up to 3,963 passengers. Its Caribbean route from New Orleans includes Cozumel and Costa Maya in Mexico; Roatán, in the Bay Islands of Honduras; and Harvest Caye, Belize.
FILE – People pause to look at Norwegian Cruise Line’s ship, Norwegian Breakaway, on the Hudson River, in New York, on May 8, 2013. A cruise ship that carried at least 17 passengers and crew members with COVID-19 breakthrough infections has left New Orleans with new passengers. The Louisiana Department of Health said Monday, Dec. 6, 2021 that nine crew members and eight passengers were infected when the Norwegian Breakaway docked in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
The Louisiana Department of Health provided updates on Twitter, breaking the news that seven additional COVID-19 cases had been identified that disembarked in New Orleans on Sunday, including one case of Omicron which has been identified among the crew.
A Norwegian Cruise ship has detected 17 cases of COVID-19 among its guests and crews
An earlier statement from Norwegian Cruise Line said that any passengers who tested positive on Sunday would either drive themselves home or ‘self-isolate in accommodations provided by the company.’
The number of disembarked passengers who were provided accommodation by NCL, as well as their location, remains unclear. NCL has no yet responded to the Dailymail.com’s request comment.
Some people who left the ship on Sunday told WVUE-TV that they had been told that people on board had tested positive for COVID-19, but others said they hadn’t.
Don Canole of North Carolina said he got first word from overhearing the station’s interview with someone nearby. ‘It would have been nice to have known. We would have taken maybe a few more precautions,’ he said.
Passengers said they were tested for COVID-19 exposure on Saturday before they were allowed to disembark Sunday. The cruise line also gave passengers take-home rapid tests as they left the ship, according to WVUE.
Passenger Wade Berry told CNN that he wasn’t informed about the outbreak of cases on board the ship, and didn’t know about it until his sister sent him a statement from the mayor’s office in New Orleans.
‘Everything was business as normal,’ he said regarding the night before the cruise disembarked. ‘The show went on and the bars were open. Everything was normal.’
He added that he was allowed to go home with a test to take in three days.
Another passenger who got off the ship on Sunday, expressed her dissatisfaction and confusion towards Norwegian Cruise Line on Twitter, saying that she has ‘so many questions and some serious concerns, how about some honest direct communication from you to us…#ingoodfaith #NEVERasked forvacproof #wantmyresults’.
A passenger who was on the same itinerary a week ago but on a different NCL cruise ship said: ‘Was just on NCL Joy on same itinerary a week ago. Fully vaccinated and PRE-embarkation testing. Something in this Breakaway story doesn’t add up, as NCL says no one is showing symptoms but at least 10 tested positive. If no symptoms, why were they tested?’
In response to Sunday’s outbreak, Norwegian Cruise issued a statement saying that the company takes the matter ‘extremely seriously and will continue to work closely with the CDC, the office of Governor John Bel Edwards, the Louisiana Department of Health as well as the city and port of New Orleans.’
Passenger Lynne Smith tweeted that NCL never asked for proof of vaccination and appears to suggest that there was a lack of ‘honest direction’ from the cruise company to passengers who disembarked on Sunday
A twitter user, who only goes by Jeff, tweeted a picture of new passengers waiting to hop on board the NCL Breakaway on Sunday, a day after ten people who got off the ship tested positive for COVID-19
Another Twitter user questioned NCL’s statement, asking why the ten people, who were described as ‘asymptomatic’, were tested if they showed no symptoms
Cruise ships were an early source of outbreaks at the start of the coronavirus pandemic last year, and some ships were rejected at ports and passengers were forced into quarantine.
The CDC issued a no-sail order in March 2020, prompting a standstill that ended last June as cruise ships began to leave U.S. ports with new health and safety requirements.
Some passengers died of COVID-19 at sea while others fell so ill they had to be carried out of the vessels on stretchers.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a no-sail order in March 2020, prompting a standstill that ended last June as cruise ships began to leave U.S. ports with new health and safety requirements.
According to Norwegian’s website, the company requires all passengers and crew members to have been vaccinated against the virus at least two weeks prior to departure.
A No Sail Order was issued for ships in March 2020 due to the fears of spreading COVID-19.
The CDC issued a Framework for Conditional Sailing Order on October 30, 2022 which included creating laboratory testing sites for ship crew members, simulated voyages made to test the ship’s operator’s ability to handled COVID cases onboard, as well as operations to minimize the spread and transmission of the virus among passengers.
The order has continued to be extended and is currently set to remain in effect until January 15, 2022.
With COVID cases on the rise again, concerns over travel operations have been a major point of discussion, especially with the new Omicron variant.
The Omicron variant was first detected in South Africa and has now spread to different countries, including 16 states in the US.
It is not clear, however, if the Omicron variant is more transmissible than other forms of the virus or can be protected by current vaccines. It also remains unclear how the new variant will affect travel as well as other activities relating to large crowds.
Recently, a Minnesota man tested positive for the Omicron variant of COVID-19 after traveling to a New York City anime convention last month.
The man, who has not been identified, reportedly alerted health officials in his home state of the potential spread – which he says affected approximately 15 members of the 35-strong friend group.
It is unclear whether any of his friends contracted the Omicron variant – which is thought to be more transmissible than previous versions of the respiratory virus.
According to officials from the Minnesota Department of Health, the group gathered at the crowded convention at Manhattan’s Jacob K. Javits Center in Midtown – which drew more than 53,000 people – sometime between November 19 and 21.
In the days following the event, the department says, roughly half of the group tested positive for the virus. Entry to the event required that participants be vaccinated, however, it is unclear if any in the group who got infected were under the age of 12.
The man, – who was one of the first to test positive for the Omicron strain in the US since it surfaced in southern Africa late last month – was fully vaccinated and had a booster shot.
Earlier in the week, the department revealed that the man first experienced ‘mild symptoms’ of the virus on November 22, the day after the convention ended.
The man then got tested two days later, officials say, and subsequently tested positive for the variant – the second person in the US to do so.
Members of the friend group hailed from an array of states across the country – prompting fears that the convention contributed – and may still be contributing – to the strain’s spread across the nation.
On Saturday, those fears were somewhat confirmed when Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont reported the first case in his state, which was contracted by a man in his 60s who had a relative attend the anime convention.
Both the man and his relative were fully vaccinated and experiencing only mild symptoms, officials say.
Many of the Omicron cases surfacing in the states – and across the globe – look to be connected to people who had traveled to South Africa recently, including the first person in the US to have an identified case of the variant, a resident of San Francisco.
The Minnesota man told health officials from his home state that he had traveled to the country last month, prior to the convention.
A Minnesota man tested positive of COVID-19 after traveling to NYC for an anime convention
The convention, called Anime NYC, saw more than 53,00 guests flock from all over the country to Manhattan’s Javits Center
The arrival of Omicron comes as hospitals statewide continue to strain under a surge in coronavirus cases, most traced to the Delta variant, along with staffing shortages.
The new variant could also slow global economic recovery, just as the Delta strain did, International Monetary Fund chief Kristalina Georgieva said on Friday.
‘Even before the arrival of this new variant, we were concerned that the recovery, while it continues, is losing somewhat momentum,’ she said.
‘A new variant that may spread very rapidly can dent confidence.’
Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy spoke with Fox News about his concerns over the rapid rate of the new variant but attempted to calm fears as he claimed there was no reason to panic.
‘I do think it’s a reason for us to not necessarily panic but to be more vigilant and to recognize that the precautions that we have been talking about for the last year or so are all the more important now than ever,’ Murthy told host Chris Wallace at Fox News.
‘We do know that the measures that we take to protect ourselves from the spread of COVID — including wearing masks in indoor spaces, being in well-ventilated spaces – those work and will work against omicron,’ he continued.
‘We also know with vaccines, Chris, that even though we’re trying to figure out the exact level of protection our vaccines will give against omicron, in every case we have seen the vaccinated are better off, particularly more protected against hospitalization and death, than the unvaccinated.
‘That’s why we’re urging people to get vaccinated and boosted.’
Despite rising concerns, Murthy said that we are more prepared as compared to the beginning stages of the virus.
‘I just want to make sure people understand this very clearly: We are not back in March 2020, despite the prospect of a new variant – omicron – on the horizon and despite the fact that we found cases here,’ he said.
‘We have more tools, we have more knowledge to protect ourselves.’
In an interview with CNN, Dr. Anthony Fauci told the the network that there ‘does not look like there’s a great deal of severity’ in terms of the new variant.
He added, however, that more studies and research need to be done to draw further conclusions.
Fauci also praised South Africa for their efficiency during this time as the US travel ban still remains intact.
‘We all feel very badly about the hardship that that might have put upon not only South Africa but the other African countries,’ he added.
He said that he hopes the travel ban will be lifted in a ‘reasonable period of time.’
Massachusetts had announced its first case Saturday, a day after New Jersey, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Missouri reported their first confirmed cases.
The variant also has been detected in Nebraska, Minnesota, California, Hawaii, Colorado and Utah.
The WHO warned it could take weeks to determine how infectious the variant is, whether it causes more severe illness and how effective treatments and vaccines are against it.
‘We’re going to get the answers that everybody out there needs,’ WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan said Friday.
The outbreak of Omicron in the province of Gauteng in South Africa, where it surfaced, has triggered the sharpest rise in hospitalizations of any previous wave.
Gauteng alone has seen over 1,000 hospital admissions in the past week, quadrupling the figure recorded just two weeks ago, while South Africa recorded a total of 1,802 hospitalizations in the past week to Friday – the latest day for which data is available.
The virus also appears to be more transmissible, with cases up from around 300 three weeks ago to nearly 7,000 on a seven-day rolling average.
Cases have soared by a massive 408 per cent in just one week while deaths rose from eight to 21 across the same time period, according to the latest figures.
The country’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases recorded another 16,366 cases on Saturday, with the vast majority in epicenter Gauteng province – a 408 per cent increase from last weekend when just 3,220 new infections were registered across the previous 24 hours.
South Africa’s cases have skyrocketed since Omicron was first discovered. Last month, the country recorded 358 daily cases, compared to the 6,381 registered today. The daily figure is the lowest since Tuesday, but is due to low testing rates over the weekend, with just 24,159 people swabbed yesterday. The positivity rate — the proportion of all tests conducted that are confirmed Covid cases — rose to a record 26.4 per cent
Some 175 South Africans were hospitalised with the virus, up 121.5 per cent on the 79 people admitted to hospital last Monday. The number of patients in hospital with the virus is at 3,517, up 51.1 per cent in a week. Pictured: graph shows weekly Covid hospitalisations
It is not known which variant the new cases recorded were.
The Omicron-stricken country recorded 21 deaths on Saturday, up 162 per cent from last week when 8 deaths were announced.
The latest figures bring the total number of cases in South Africa up to 3,020,569, while the number of deaths have increased to a total of 89,956.
South Africa is seeing a meteoric rise in its cases amid the rampant spread of the Omicron variant, which scientists say has already reached every province in the country.
Sharing Omicron figures from the Steve Biko/Tshwane District Hospital Complex, she tweeted: ‘Most COVID-19 patients didn’t know they had COVID when they got admitted (they were admitted for another condition).’
Public Health officials in Gauteng — where Johannesburg is based — say their R rate has surged to 3.5 from around one a month ago. It means every ten people infected with the virus are now spreading it to 35 others. In the UK, the R rate has never risen above 1.6.
While Omicron’s infectiousness seems unquestionable, there is growing uncertainty about how well it can evade vaccines and how severe the illness it causes will be. A pre-print published in the country found the variant was at least two-and-a-half times better at re-infecting people than all other variants.