A passenger who sailed aboard the Carnival Vista to Belize, who was infected with COVID-19 on the cruise ship and then abandoned by Carnival in that foreign port, recently died after she eventually returned to the U.S.

A Retired Sunday School Teacher On Her First Trip Outside of the U.S.

Marilyn Tackett, a retired Sunday school teacher, age 77, from Oklahoma, sailed from Galveston, Texas on the Carnival Vista on July 31, 2021 with her family. It was her first cruise and trip outside of the U.S. The cruise left from Galveston and sailed to ports in the Caribbean, including Roatan and Belize.  When the Carnival ship reached Roatan on August 3, 2021, Ms. Tackett went ashore on an excursion (photo right from Go Fund Me page). The next day, the Carnival Vista sailed to Belize. Although she was vaccinated, Ms. Tackett did not feel well and declined to go on the excursion which her grown children had chosen. When they returned to the ship, her children noticed that Ms. Tachett was having great difficulty breathing. They summoned the ship doctor who administered a COVID test which was positive. The doctor informed the family that she needed to be on a ventilator, and then arranged for Ms. Tackett to be transferred to a hospital in Belize.

The hospital demanded a payment from her family of $5,000 before it would admit her to the hospital. After a delay, the hospital then admitted her to an intensive care unit and placed her on a ventilator.

Ms. Tackett’s insurance company did not cover medical care outside of the U.S. or the emergency flight back home. On August 6th, her granddaughter created a Go Fund Me page for her grandmother, who she called MeMaw, to try and raise $30,000 in order for Ms. Tackett to be medically evacuated by air to Tulsa, Oklahoma.

An air ambulance eventually flew Ms. Tachett back to Oklahoma and she was admitted to an intensive care and again placed on a ventilator.  After a few days of struggling in the hospital, she died on August 14th.

Some of this information was posted on a Carnival roll-call for this particular cruise (photo left)(with readable text below left), although the original posing on Facebook has now been deleted.

Carnival Cruise Line Falsely Claimed That It Was handling Only A “Small Amount” of COVID-19 Cases on the Carnival Vista

The Carnival Vista reportedly had a number of positive COVID-19 cases during this cruise, according to the Galveston Daily News which was the first newspaper to report on COVID-19 cases on the ship. However, Carnival Cruise Line refused to state the exact number of infected guests, admitting only that a “small number of people” on board tested positive. Carnival repeated this innocuous statement to newspapers in Houston when it said just a “small number” of passengers tested positive for COVID-19 mid-week. One newspaper reported that “it’s unclear . . .  how severe their symptoms were.”

Later, Carnival repeated this  misleading statement when it became public information that as many as 27 people on the Carnival Vista (26 crew and one guest) had tested positive for COVID-19. It stated only that “we are managing a small number of COVID cases on board Vista,” according to a USA Today article. Of course, in truth, Carnival was obviously aware that they transferred, ashore to Belize, a very ill passenger in need of oxygen and the use of a ventilator. So the suggestion that Carnival was somehow “managing COVID cases on the cruise ship,” when this guest who the cruise line abandoned was struggling to breath due to COVID-19 in a hospital in Belize, is patently false.

Ms. Tachett’s death raises substantial issues regarding the public disclosure of COVID-19 cases on cruise ships. There is no legal requirement for either the CDC or the cruise lines to disclose the number of COVID-19 cases on cruise ships. All the CDC does is to disclose the color status (green, orange, or yellow) which simply acknowledges whether a particular ship has had at least one positive COVID-19 case in the last week.  The Sun Sentinel recently published an article titled 27 cruise ships have reported COVID-19 infections. Why can’t we find out how many?  I argued that “consumers and the communities where cruise ships operate have a right to know how many infected crew members and passengers are aboard each voyage (especially with the new and highly contagious ascendant Delta virus). No one is being forthcoming with basic information about how many people are in fact infected. It seems to me that the CDC should be disclosing the numbers and requiring cruise lines to be transparent, in the interest of health and guest safety.”

Carnival continues to falsely state that it had “a small number” of cases onboard the Carnival Vista when, in reality it had at least 26 crew members and an unknown number infected guests, including one guest (Ms. Tachert) who it abandoned in Belize and who later died.

On Friday, a Carnival spokesman responded to the Sun Sentinel’s request for infection counts from each of Carnival’s voyages this summer by stating “we are not reporting specific numbers.”

The fact at least 26 crew members on the Carnival Vista were infected with COVID-19 was not publicly known until a confidential source informed me of the outbreak before the case reached Roatan (read, Over Two Dozen Carnival Crew Members Infected With COVID-19 on Carnival Vista) and, later, when the Belize Tourism Board (not Carnival) released a press release. Important health issues affecting the U.S. public should not first be made public with a spin by a foreign tourism board eager to do business with a U.S. based cruise company, but from a public health organization with a staff of infectious disease doctors, epidemiologists and public health experts.

A memorial service is scheduled for Ms. Tackett for this Thursday, August 19, 2021.

This Is Not The Fist Death From COVID-19 on a Carnival Cruise Ship This Summer

This is not the first COVID-19-related death connected to a Carnival Cruise Line ship this summer. In June, a well liked Carnival chief engineer, Angelo Strano, died from COVID-19, dies from COVID-19, Officer Stano had worked for Carnival for thirty-four and one-half years after starting his career with Carnival in December 1986. To date, Carnival has failed to even acknowledge his untimely death.

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Credit: Marilyn Tackett (Rest in Peace) – Shipman Funeral Home: In Roatan – Go Fund Me; Carnival roll-call postings – Facebook.

Update: The popular Royal Caribbean Blog published an article which shows the compassionate way that Royal Caribbean/Celebrity Cruises have chosen to handle this type of situation, where the company has flown infected guests from Caribbean islands via private jets. Read: Royal Caribbean is flying passengers home on a private jet if they have Covid-19.

August 23, 2021 Update:

The national media is finally catching up with this story on the Carnival Vista, with the Washington Post, Axios, and the New York Times belatedly covering the story.
By the Washington Post:
“A passenger aboard a Carnival Cruise Line ship that left from Galveston, Tex., in late July has died.
Marilyn Tackett, a 77-year-old Oklahoman, died this month after contracting the coronavirus. She was among the 27 reported positive cases aboard the cruise line, one of the highest number of publicly recorded cases on a ship sailing from the United States since cruises restarted this summer . . .
Tackett was looking forward to taking her first trip abroad when she set sail across the ocean, but her experience was interrupted with a coronavirus diagnosis that caused her to be put on a ventilator in Belize, according to a GoFundMe page created by one of her grandchildren.
She was transported back to Tulsa on Aug. 6 and received treatment until her death just eight days later, according to her family.
‘Memaw fought as long as she could,’ the family said in a statement. ‘To know she’s reunited with lost loved ones and that she’s basking in The Lord’s presence now is a huge comfort.’
Tackett’s family did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Carnival Cruise Line told The Washington Post in a statement that it was sad to hear about Tackett’s death but also said that it was unlikely that she had contracted the virus aboard its ship.”
By Axios:

“The Carnival Vista saw the biggest outbreak of coronavirus cases since cruises resumed in the U.S. and Caribbean last June, with 27 people testing positive for COVID-19 after sailing out from Galveston, Texas, in late July and early August, per the New York Times.

  • One of those passengers later died of the virus in an Oklahoma hospital, though Carnival spokesperson Chris Chiames said in an emailed statement to Axios that the woman ‘almost certainly did not contract COVID on our ship.'”

By the New York Times:

“Over two weeks in late July and early August, 27 coronavirus infections were identified aboard the Carnival Vista cruise ship sailing out of Galveston, Texas.

One of those infected, a passenger, later died.

It was the highest number of cases aboard a ship reported since June, when cruises restarted in the Caribbean and United States, and the first death.

. . . The cruise line said that it was highly unlikely Ms. Tackett contracted the coronavirus aboard the ship . . . ”

Ms. Tackett boarded the ship on July 31st and had her first symptoms on August 3rd. It is well established by the CDC that COVID-19 symptoms can begin as early as two days after exposure.
Carnival’s PR people first said that it was managing a “small number” of cases. Then newspapers accurately reported that the Carnival Vista was experiencing “one of the highest number of publicly recorded cases on a ship sailing from the United States since cruises restarted this summer.”
It’s no wonder that Carnival’s PR people now dispute that she was infected on its ship.