The number of positive COVID-19 aboard the Carnival Vista increased to 27 today as the cruise ship disembarked passengers ashore in the port of Belize City. In addition to the 26 crew members who were infected and are in quarantine when the ship arrived in Roatan, which we reported on yesterday, a passenger also tested positive today.
Prior to the arrival of the Carnival cruise ship in Belize, the tourism officials in Belize, including the Minister of Tourism, together with the Belize Tourism Board, met virtually with officers on the Carnival Vista yesterday to discuss the positive COVID-19 cases on the ship. Thereafter the tourism board release a press release which included this information:
- Crew are 99.98% vaccinated;
- Passengers are 96.5% vaccinated;
- All crew members who have tested positive are in isolation;
- All persons who have tested positive are vaccinated, most are asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms;
- Contact tracing has been completed (including 400+ tests done on Saturday, 300+ tests done yesterday, and 200+ more done today) which did not reveal additional positive findings; and
- Additional protocols have been put in place including increased mask wearing indoors, use of N95 Masks by crew, crew social areas have been closed, and as early as the next departure, all guests will require a negative rapid test, regardless of whether they are vaccinated.
The Belize tourism team then concluded (in the press release) that the 26 infected crew members and one passenger “do not pose a threat to guests, crew or frontline workers in Belize.” The board stated that “passengers will be allowed to disembark in Belize and conduct shore excursions as per normal.”
The local tourism pers onnel were effusive in its praise of Carnival, writing that “cruise lines have been sailing globally throughout the pandemic, and in July, resumed sailing in the Western Caribbean and Belize. The lines have maintained an exceptional safety record, and with the extensive protocols in place, it is arguably one of the safest ways to travel today, amidst the pandemic.”
Aside from these self-serving conclusions by the tourism personnel, it does not appear that any medical, epidemiology or infectious disease experts in Belize weighed in on the decision to permit cruise passengers ashore from a ship with at least 27 people infected with a deadly virus.
As we discussed yesterday, Belize has a local protocol which states that cruise passengers are not allowed to disembark if the total number of positive cases exceeds 2% of the ship’s capacity. The Belize Tourism Board stated in a separate press release on Facebook that the ship had “2895 guests and 1441 crew on board. 2% of this total (4,336 crew and guests) is around 86 people.
Of particular interest from this press release is the statement that Carnival performed contact tracing of over 400 crew members on Saturday (the day that the cruise ship left Galveston).. This information is consistent with the fact that as many as 23 crew members tested positive for COVID-19 at some point on Saturday, based on the information which we received on that day. This raises the issue whether Carnival was being transparent when the cruise line disclosed only that a “small number” of guests were infected on the prior cruise. Carnival did not disclose to the press (and apparently not to the CDC) that any crew members were infected last Saturday, nor does it appear that Carnival ever disclosed to their cruise passengers on the ship (or to the public) that crew members on the ship were infected.
26 crew members on the Carnival Vista tested positive for COVID, according to sources – not the company, who should have been specific instead of muddying the waters with a silly statement admitting that a “small number” of passengers tested positive.
They're all employees.
— US-Rep_Marathon (@Marathon_US_Rep) August 11, 2021
As we explained yesterday, the 26 Carnival crew members who are infected for COVID-19 involve employees from the following departments on the ship: casino department -10 (including casino manager), restaurant and restaurant services department – 4, entertainment – 4 , guest services – 2, photo – 2, housekeeping – 1, and beverage – 1. (The job positions of two crew members were not specified). As one reader of this blog commented – “How does one conduct thorough contact tracing of all close contacts of a casino manager?”
The Carnival Vista is now sailing to Cozumel where it is scheduled to arrive early tomorrow morning. It is unclear whether the local tourism or health departments in that city in Mexico will release information regarding the continuing disease outbreak on the Carnival ship. The Carnival Vista will return to Galveston on Saturday.
The CDC’s color code system continues to show a “yellow” designation for the ship with the notation that the CDC has investigated and the ship remains under observation. It should be noted that the CDC has exactly this designation and notation when Carnival was still claiming that the ship had only a “small number” of infected guests aboard the ship last week.
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Image credit: Carnival Corporation via Galveston.com
August 12, 2021 Update: I received this message from a guest on the Carnival Vista last night:
“I’m on Carnival Vista as a passenger now. We haven’t been told of any infections. As we docked at Belize, the cruise director did say the Belize authorities overnight decided to conduct random tests of people leaving the ship and asked us to cooperate should we be asked to test. I didn’t see any random tests occurring. Every crew member is masked all the time. Some are double masked. Passengers are not as diligent.”
The outbreak was finally covered by a major newspaper today,. USA Today published 27 people on board Carnival Cruise Line ship test positive for COVID-19 which basically regurgitates the information regarding the outbreak until Belize. There has been no update which I am aware of since leaving Belize (the ship is currently in Cozumel today). The Carnival Vista remains schedule to return to Galveston on Saturday.
August 13, 2021 Update:
I received this message from a guest on the ship: “The statement from Carnival spokesperson AnneMarie Matthews in the USA Today article is misleading. There has been NO mention of any Covid outbreak on the ship. No mention of any Covid outbreak in the statements by the captain and all statements by the cruise director. All activities have gone on as planned.”
Another major newspaper, the Washington Post, covers the outbreak today. The Post rightfully states that “the outbreak is among the highest number of publicly reported cases on a ship sailing from the United States since cruises restarted this summer.”
I received a message from another quest on the ship this evening:
“I’m onboard the Carnival Vista now. And as if 8 pm on Friday we as passengers have not heard a thing about cases. But i have noticed the crew being more and more diligent about mask wearing. I asked guest services on board if the report is true and they said they had no knowledge of these positive tests that are being reported.”
Here is the reporting from a local news station in Belize, News 7 Belize, and comments protesting of the arrival of the COVID-19 infected cruise ship by the local community in Belize.