California prepares to dock cruise ship with 21 virus cases

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This photo provided by Michele Smith, shows an empty dining center on the Grand Princess cruise ship Friday, March 6, 2020, off the California coast. Scrambling to keep the coronavirus at bay, officials ordered a cruise ship with about 3,500 people aboard to stay back from the California coast until passengers and crew can be tested, after a traveler from its previous voyage died of the disease and at least two others became infected. A Coast Guard helicopter lowered test kits onto the 951-foot (290-meter) Grand Princess by rope as the vessel lay at anchor off Northern California, and authorities said the results would be available on Friday, March 6, 2020. Princess Cruise Lines said fewer than 100 people aboard had been identified for testing. (Michele Smith via AP)

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – As the U.S. death toll from the new coronavirus reached at least 21, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and the mayor of Oakland sought Sunday to reassure the public that none of the passengers from a ship carrying people with the virus will be released into the public before undergoing a 14-day quarantine.

The Grand Princess carrying more than 3,500 people from 54 countries is expected to dock Monday in Oakland, in the east San Francisco Bay, and was idling off the coast Sunday as officials prepared a port site. Those needing acute medical care will come off first.

“This is a time that we must be guided by facts and not fears, and our public deserves to know what’s going on," Mayor Libby Schaaf said.

On Sunday, the U.S. State Department issued an advisory against travel on cruise ships. “U.S. citizens, particularly travelers with underlying health conditions, should not travel by cruise ship," the department said in a statement on its website. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “notes increased risk of infection of COVID-19 in a cruise ship environment."

Meanwhile, the number of infections in the United States climbed above 500 as testing for the virus increased.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the National Institutes of Health's allergy and infectious diseases chief, said Sunday that widespread closure of a city or region, as Italy has done, is “possible.”

“You don’t want to alarm people, but given the spread we see, you know anything is possible and that’s the reason why we’ve got to be prepared to take whatever action is appropriate to contain and mitigate the outbreak,” Fauci said on “Fox News Sunday."

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said communities will need to start thinking about canceling large gatherings, closing schools and letting more employees work from home, as many companies have done in the Seattle, Washington, area amid an outbreak at a care home that has killed 18.