Virus-hit cruise ships cleared to dock in Florida

The Zaandam, left, and Rotterdam cruise ships prepare to come into Port Everglades on April 02, 2020 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (AFP)
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Updated 03 April 2020

Virus-hit cruise ships cleared to dock in Florida

  • A total of 1,243 passengers and 1,247 crew members are stranded at sea on the Zaandam and the Rotterdam
  • Some 45 people with mild symptoms will remain onboard in isolation until they recover and the estimated less than 10 people requiring critical care will be taken ashore

FORT LAUDERDALE, United States: Two virus-hit cruise ships with dozens of ill passengers and crew received clearance to dock in Florida on Thursday after being barred from several South American countries, concluding a harrowing time at sea for those stranded onboard.
The Zaandam, operated by Holland America Line, and its sister ship the Rotterdam approached Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, according to ship tracker cruisemapper.com, after days of protracted negotiations over their fate.
“The Coast Guard, Homeland Security, health officials, and Broward County have reached a decision to allow the #Zaandam and #Rotterdam cruise ships to dock,” Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis said on Twitter.
Four people have died on the Zaandam, for reasons not yet disclosed.
Rick De Pinho, a Zaandam passenger who was transferred to the Rotterdam at sea, sent AFP a recording of a message from the ship’s captain confirming port clearance had been granted.
“We’re going to miss the ship,” a jubilant De Pinho told AFP.

A total of 1,243 passengers and 1,247 crew members are stranded at sea on the Zaandam and the Rotterdam, which came to its sister ship’s aid last week, loaded with supplies.
Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, initially said he did not want the ships to dock, for fear the ill passengers would tax the state’s already strained health care system.
With more than 8,000 coronavirus cases and at least 128 deaths, the Sunshine State — home to many retirees — has the fifth-most cases in the United States.
But late Wednesday, DeSantis changed his tune, telling Fox News that he had not realized there were US citizens involved.
“We actually have Floridians” aboard the Zaandam, he said.
President Donald Trump had said the ships needed to be evacuated, saying: “We have to help the people. They’re in big trouble.”
Trump said he was working with British and Canadian authorities to repatriate their nationals who are on the cruise liners.
Trantalis said Holland America, which is owned by Carnival, had agreed to a “strict set of protocols” governing how the passengers would disembark.
“It’s all going to be done in ways that are not going to expose the people of Florida to any of the illnesses that may be on there,” DeSantis told Fox News on Thursday.
The top US expert on infectious disease, Anthony Fauci, told CBS News: “You have to take care of the people who are ill. You just have an obligation to do that, and as quickly as possible.”
About 1,200 passengers who are not ill are expected to be sent home on charter planes.
They will be “transported in coaches that will be sanitized, with limited person-to-person contact and while wearing masks,” Holland America said Wednesday.
Some 45 people with mild symptoms will remain onboard in isolation until they recover and the estimated less than 10 people requiring critical care will be taken ashore for treatment locally, the company said.
“We have one hospital that is able to take some of the critically ill. They have the capacity to do that,” DeSantis said.
The desperate situation onboard the Zaandam attracted worldwide publicity, but it is just one of several cruise liners seeking permission to dock at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale.
The Zaandam, which left Buenos Aires on March 7, was originally meant to finish the trip in Chile on March 21 but changed course due to the virus outbreak.
After negotiations while the ships waited in waters off Panama City, it and the Rotterdam were allowed to transit the Panama Canal in order to head to Florida.
De Pinho, a 53-year-old attorney, and his wife were transferred to the Rotterdam because so far, they are healthy.
“You can’t have these ships floating around. People want to go home,” he told AFP from the ship before clearance was granted.


Memorial service held for Floyd, officers in court

Updated 50 min 22 sec ago

Memorial service held for Floyd, officers in court

  • Al Sharpton: The width of the support and participation in the protests is something unlike we’ve ever seen before
  • Three of the four Minneapolis police officers who arrested Floyd on May 25 for allegedly passing a counterfeit bill made their first court appearance

MINNEAPOLIS: US civil rights activist Al Sharpton led a memorial service, in Minneapolis, for George Floyd, the African-American man whose harrowing videotaped death while being arrested has unleashed sweeping nationwide protests for racial justice.
“The width of the support and participation in the protests is something unlike we’ve ever seen before,” Sharpton said on MSNBC ahead of the 1:00 p.m. Central Time (1800 GMT) service. “This is the time that we can make real change.”
Three of the four Minneapolis police officers who arrested Floyd on May 25 for allegedly passing a counterfeit bill were to make their first court appearance, meanwhile, to face charges of aiding and abetting his murder.
The fourth policeman, white officer Derek Chauvin, who was filmed kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as he said “I can’t breathe,” has been charged with second-degree murder and appeared before a judge last week.
Democratic Congressman John Lewis, who marched with Martin Luther King Jr to fight segregation, echoed Sharpton’s hope that Floyd’s death and the protests could pave the way for “greater change.”
“This feels and looks so different,” the 80-year-old civil rights icon told “CBS This Morning.” “It is so much more massive and all inclusive.”
Lewis, who was brutally beaten on several occasions during the 1960s civil rights protests, condemned President Donald Trump’s threat to use military force against demonstrators.
“I think it would be a serious mistake on the part of President Trump to use the military to stop orderly, peaceful, nonviolent protests,” Lewis said. “You cannot stop, cannot stop the call of history.”
While condemning Floyd’s death, Trump has adopted a tough stance toward the protesters, saying they include many “bad people” and calling on governors to “dominate the streets.”
Trump has raised the possibility of invoking the Insurrection Act to deploy active duty troops to quell the protests but his own defense secretary, Mark Esper, said Wednesday that should only be a “last resort.”
And Esper’s predecessor as Pentagon chief, former general James Mattis, broke his silence since resigning from the administration to deliver a biting assessment of the president.
Mattis called Trump “the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try.”
“Instead, he tries to divide us,” the decorated Marine Corps general said.
Trump snapped back on Twitter, calling Mattis “the world’s most overrated General.”

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Another Democratic congressman, Adam Schiff, the chief prosecutor at Trump’s impeachment by the House of Representatives earlier this year, drew a parallel between the US protests and Thursday’s 31st anniversary of the Chinese crackdown on students in Tiananmen Square.
“While we pause to remember the innocent lives lost and demand that the Chinese government reckon with its state-sanctioned violence, we must acknowledge that America’s moral authority to denounce these crimes relies upon our setting an example here at home,” Schiff said.
“But when our police attack peaceful protesters fighting for a more just society with tear gas, rubber bullets, and flash bang grenades, we not only violate American values, but we also we lose our credibility when advocating for human rights and democratic freedoms abroad,” he said.
New barriers were being erected outside the White House on Thursday as the protests for racial justice and police reform entered a 10th day.
Police used batons and chemical agents to clear protesters from Lafayette Park in front of the White House on Monday and have since expanded the perimeter around 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Floyd’s death has reignited long-felt anger over police killings of African-Americans and unleashed a nationwide wave of civil unrest unlike any seen in the US since King’s 1968 assassination.
The arrest of all four officers involved in Floyd’s death has been a demand of the tens of thousands of protesters who have marched in the streets of dozens of US cities, often defying curfews.
Floyd’s family, in a statement thanking protesters, called the arrests and new charges a “bittersweet moment” — and a “significant step forward on the road to justice.”
They urged Americans to continue to “raise their voices for change in peaceful ways.”
Protesters staged large in cities from New York to Los Angeles on Wednesday.
Some of the protests were marred by rioting and looting in the early days but they have been mostly peaceful since then.
Los Angeles and Washington delayed the start of their curfews by several hours Wednesday after looting and violence had subsided the previous night, while Seattle scrapped its curfew with immediate effect.
Several arrests were made in New York after groups of protesters continued to march in Manhattan and Brooklyn after the city’s 8:00 p.m. curfew had passed.
A large group also protested at the US Capitol in Washington beyond curfew.
Thousands took to the streets in Hollywood and downtown Los Angeles, where Mayor Eric Garcetti vowed to redirect $250 million toward black community health and education from budgets including the police department.