Florida Docking Plan in the Works for Ill-Fated Cruise Ships

The Zaandam cruise ship, left, carrying some guests with flu-like symptoms, is anchored shortly after it arrived to the bay of Panama City, Friday, March 27, 2020, amid the worldwide spread of the new coronavirus. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)

The U.S. Coast Guard said Tuesday that it’s working with Holland America on a detailed docking plan that would require two ships carrying passengers and crew from an ill-fated cruise to handle all medical issues without impacting South Florida’s already-stressed hospitals.

If a “unified command” of state, local and federal officials can’t unanimously adopt the plan, they’ll punt a decision to Washington, Coast Guard Captain Jo-Ann Burdian said.

“There are no great choices left. These are all tough outcomes….the last thing we want to do is execute a plan that someone doesn’t agree with,” she told the Broward County Commmision during an emergency meeting on the fate of the Zaandam and its sister ship, the Rotterdam.

Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony called the decision a “humanitarian crisis” and asked commissioners not to vote based on emotion. Allowing the ship to dock here would burden the local healthcare system and put residents at risk of additional exposure, he warned.

“This ship has been turned away from several countries already. We are the United States of America and we have never turned away people in need or those that are sick but we are in some very, very critical circumstances where we as a county are going to have to determine are we willing to take on this responsibility.”

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