At least 17 COVID-19 cases reported on cruise ship that disembarked in New Orleans

Published: Dec. 6, 2021 at 6:10 AM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE/Gray News) - At least 17 COVID-19 cases have been identified among the passengers and crew members on a Norwegian Cruise Lines cruise ship that disembarked in New Orleans Sunday, the Louisiana Department of Health reported.

This includes 1 probable case of Omicron which has been identified among the crew. The crew member is not a Louisiana resident and did not leave the ship, WVUE reported.

The Norwegian Breakaway departed New Orleans on Nov. 28 and made stops in Belize, Honduras and Mexico during its voyage.

Employees work to disinfect the Norwegian Breakaway on Sunday, after the cruise ship returned...
Employees work to disinfect the Norwegian Breakaway on Sunday, after the cruise ship returned to port in New Orleans with at least 17 positive cases of COVID-19 aboard, hours before another scheduled voyage leaving Sunday afternoon.(WVUE-Fox 8)

Passengers said they were required to show proof of vaccination before boarding in New Orleans and were tested for COVID-19 exposure on Saturday before disembarking Sunday. The cruise line also gave passengers take-home rapid tests as they left the ship.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, the Louisiana Department of Health, the City of New Orleans and the Port of New Orleans are aware and working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to implement existing COVID-19 agreements and protocols with the cruise line.

A spokesperson for Norwegian Cruise Line said those who tested positive for the disease represented “a handful” of the more than 3,200 people aboard, and that each affected person was “asymptomatic.”

“We are testing all individuals on Norwegian Breakaway prior to disembarkation, as well as providing post-exposure and quarantine public health guidance by the CDC,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “Any guests who have tested positive for COVID-19 will travel by personal vehicle to their personal residence or self-isolate in accommodations provided by the company, according to CDC guidelines.”

But the effectiveness of such measures - particularly how the cruise line or health officials would enforce instructions for ill passengers to travel directly home, rather than walk around in New Orleans - was an open question.

Some disembarking passengers told WVUE they were notified about the positive cases on the ship, while others said they had no idea about the outbreak on board the ocean liner until being asked about it by a reporter.

“Yeah, we didn’t hear of this until we kind of heard you talking a second ago,” said Don Canole, a Breakaway passenger from North Carolina. “It would have been nice to have known. We would have taken maybe a few more precautions.”

The Norwegian Breakaway was scheduled to depart again Sunday after 4 p.m. for another seven-day voyage, returning to New Orleans on Dec. 12.

“At this time, there have been no changes to scheduled future sailings on Norwegian Breakaway,” the spokesperson said. “We will provide additional updates to impacted guests as appropriate.”

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