Trump calls for 2 stranded Holland America cruise ships to be able to dock as coronavirus fears grow in Florida

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“I’m going to do what’s right not only for us but for humanity,” Trump said Tuesday night.
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Tom Brenner/Reuters
  • United States President Donald Trump has expressed support of Holland America’s stranded cruise ships.
  • “I’m going to do what’s right not only for us but for humanity,” Trump said during a White House press briefing on Tuesday night. “These are two big ships and they have a lot of very sick people.”
  • He said he would speak to Florida Governor Ronald DeSantis, who has voiced concerns over the cruises docking in southern Florida.
  • The US Coast Guard will not yet permit the MS Zaandam, a cruise with at least two confirmed cases of COVID-19 onboard, and the MS Rotterdam, the ship sent to rescue its healthy passengers, to enter US waters.
  • Florida officials remain concerned that allowing Zaandam and Rotterdam passengers to disembark in Fort Lauderdale seaport Port Everglades could worsen the spread of coronavirus in the area.
  • Four passengers have died on the Zaandam after an outbreak of respiratory illness sickened at least 189 people.
  • Are you a cruise-ship passenger or employee with a story to share? Email acain@businessinsider.com.

United States President Donald Trump has expressed his support for two Holland America cruise ships stuck at sea.

“I’m going to do what’s right not only for us but for humanity,” the president said during Tuesday night’s White House press briefing. “These are two big ships and they have a lot of very sick people.”

White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham did not respond to Business Insider’s request for comment. The fate of both the MS Zaandam and the MS Rotterdam – and their combined pool of nearly 2,500 passengers and crew members – remains uncertain, as officials in southern Florida weigh the risks of disembarking potentially sick passengers in a region already rife with coronavirus.

In a March 31 Broward County Commission meeting, US Coast Guard Sector Miami Commander Captain Jo-Ann Burdian said that the Zaandam and the Rotterdam would not be permitted to enter US waters until Holland America’s parent company Carnival Corp. submitted a complete plan regarding the medical situation on each ship.

“In the opinion of the seventh Coast Guard district, the conditions onboard present especially hazardous conditions,” she said.

The plight of the ships have captured international attention of the course of their long journey around South and Central America, and through the Panama Canal. The Zaandam’s cruise was scheduled to last 14 days, embarking from Buenos Aires on March 7. For some passengers, the cruise would end after 14 days in San Antonio, Chile. For others, it was due to reach April 7 in Fort Lauderdale.

Those plans were diverted because of the coronavirus, and the cruise ship was closed out of ports across South and Central America. Four passengers died on board and at least two people have tested positive for COVID-19.

And now, the White House is weighing in. During the press briefing, Trump also said he would be speaking with Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, a political ally has largely spoken out against the ships docking in southern Florida. In a video conference today, DeSantis addressed the cruise ships “bearing onto southern Florida.”

He said that he and Trump had spoken about the situation with the Holland America ships. DeSantis said that he believes Trump “would like to see a solution.” He also said that the White House “has seen a lot of the cruise ships take up a lot of the resources.”

“I obviously am not in control of the port,” DeSantis said. “That’s run by the counties in southern Florida, in this case Broward County. I know they’re in consultation with the cruise ships. Clearly we’re going to be willing to accept any Floridians onboard.”

DeSantis added that his “understanding is that most of the passengers are foreign nationals.” The Florida governor has repeatedly characterized the ship passengers as “foreigners” and “foreign nationals.” There are 304 United States citizens onboard the ship. Currently, there are 797 passengers and 645 crew on the Rotterdam, and 602 crew members and 446 guests on the Zaandam.

“Of course, my concern is simply that we have worked so hard to make sure we have adequate hospital space in the event of a COVID-19 surge that we wouldn’t want those valuable beds to be taken because of the cruise ship,” DeSantis said. “We just want to get to a point where the resources can be used for the folks here particularly in southern Florida where we have most of our problems with COVID-19 and not divert those elsewhere.”

Are you a cruise ship passenger or employee? Email acain@businessinsider.com.