(SUN SENTINEL) – Four passengers have died aboard a Holland America cruise ship that soon may make its way to Port Everglades, the liner announced Friday.
Holland America said “four older guests” died on the Zaandam, but didn’t say whether the new coronavirus was the cause.
Nearly 140 people on the ship have complained about feeling sick, including some with respiratory symptoms. On Thursday, several were tested for the coronavirus and two people tested positive. The company didn’t say whether the two who tested positive were among the four passengers who died.
A Miramar couple aboard the ship adrift at sea said the captain also announced the four deaths.
The ship was prohibited from disembarking in Chile and is now seeking to make its way to Fort Lauderdale. That plan has drawn the wrath of Broward’s County Commission, which is considering turning it away.
Cliff Kolber and his wife Doris, who left on their South America cruise in early March, said the captain on the Zaandam said at 11 a.m. that healthy people over age 70 will be evacuated to a second cruise line. Nobody is allowed to contact guest services to ask about themselves, the couple said.
Also Friday, Fort Lauderdale ordered residents to stay home beginning at 12:01 a.m. Saturday to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. Violators can be arrested or fined. The city’s emergency order comes one day after Broward County issued a directive “strongly” urging residents to shelter in place.
Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis said the county is merely requesting people to stay at home, and there is no way to enforce it.
Meanwhile, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that highway checkpoints will be placed on Interstate 10 and other major roads in the Panhandle, in an effort to screen cars coming from New Orleans and other parts of Louisiana. Commercial delivery trucks will not be stopped, he said.
Motorists from those areas will be told they need to quarantine for 14 days, as there are more signs that The Crescent City is a coronavirus hot spot. New Orleans has 1,170 cases of the disease, and 57 deaths, which is a higher death toll than the entire state of Florida.
“This is just a way to keep people safe,” DeSantis said, comparing it to airport screenings of travelers coming from New York City.
The governor also said there are plans to open a major coronavirus testing site soon in Palm Beach County, with the assistance of the National Guard. The location was not revealed. Palm Beach has had less than 1,500 people tested for the disease so far, which trails testing in both Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
-Tri-Rail announced it is reducing its commuter train schedule, and dropping fares, beginning Saturday, as more South Floridians are staying home because of the new coronavirus. The move comes days after Brightline stopped its high-speed rail system service indefinitely in an effort to stop the spread of infections.
-Four Broward Sheriff’s Office employees have tested positive with COVID-19, while 207 workers so far have been either self-monitoring or self-isolating due to potential exposure to the coronavirus, the agency said Friday.
-The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office says three deputies have tested positive with infections and nearly 40 deputies are now in quarantine. One deputy is in critical condition, but nearly all of the isolated deputies are expected to resume work on Saturday.
Broward County’s stay-at-home directive took effect on Friday, with residents told to stay inside unless heading out for food, health care or an emergency. Workers considered “essential” can still report to their jobs. Boca Raton, the southernmost city in Palm Beach County, issued a similar order set to start at 12:01 a.m Saturday.
Some grim projections: Deaths from the new coronavirus are on track to double every four days in Florida, and the virus likely will continue to be a threat for months as opposed to weeks.
How have major life events been changed by the fight against COVID-19 in South Florida? Two South Florida Sun Sentinel reporters tell how life, even during a pandemic, goes on.
Miami-Dade County on Thursday issued an emergency order for immediate “Safer at Home” rules, asking all residents and visitors not to go out except for “essential activities.” Also, residents in the city of Miami will be under a 10 p.m. curfew starting Friday night.
By the numbers
The Department of Health’s Friday morning update brought the state’s total documented coronavirus cases to 2,900 infections. The state says 488 people with COVID-19 are in the hospital.
Broward and Miami-Dade are the counties with the highest number of cases in Florida. Broward has 614 cases. Miami-Dade has 763. Palm Beach County has 194.
Out of the 35 total deaths reported by the state, three were in Palm Beach County.
The United States now has more coronavirus cases than any country in the world. As of Friday morning, there are over 92,900 confirmed cases, with at least 1,380 deaths. New York City has the most deaths of any area in the nation: 365.
The number of cases now tops a half-million worldwide. There are over 566,269 confirmed cases worldwide in more than 100 countries and territories, with 25,423 deaths.
The number of documented cases in a given location is not necessarily an accurate reflection of the actual number of infected people documented by authorities.