Virus ‘Death Ship’ Finally Docks. But Not Everyone Allowed Off

After being stranded at sea for three weeks, passengers on a Carnival Corp. cruise ship that was refused entry by multiple countries started disembarking in Fort Lauderdale, Florida — but not all will be allowed to end a nightmare trip that left four dead and nine infected with coronavirus.

Holland America Line’s Zaandam arrived at the port Thursday as emergency medical personnel waited to carry away the most seriously ill for treatment. The Rotterdam, a sister ship that came to the aid of the Zaandam and took on some of its healthy passengers, was also allowed to disembark.

By the evening, some of the 1,200 passengers from the two ships posted on social media that they were making their journeys home. A couple dozen others passengers with milder symptoms, along with hundreds of crew members, must remain on board.

Fort Lauderdale was the Zaandam’s final port, and its plight has spurred fierce debate in Florida, with officials weighing help for the sick on board against the possibility of adding to strains on the local health-care resources. It’s just the latest cruise ship to see an outbreak and strife at sea, with the boats’ close living quarters facilitating the spread of virus cases. Countries around the world have been refusing port to cruise liners on concern passengers will pass on the coronavirus once on land. That’s left thousands of cruisers and crew stranded and cruise companies facing one of their biggest ever crises.

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As part of the negotiations with local officials, Holland America came up with a plan to treat and quarantine passengers with mild symptoms on board the Zaandam, while sending about a dozen of the sickest passengers to Florida hospitals. The news saw joy and relief at coming into port to disappointment for some of those on board, with some couples and families being faced with separation.

Zaandam passenger Gloria Weed was initially given the news that both she and her husband, Bill Weed, would be moved to a hospital. Hours later, the Sarasota, Florida couple found out they would be separated: he would be headed to a local hospital, while she must remain on the ship.

Coughing Fits

“I thought Florida residents might be left off even if they were sick,” said Gloria, who has had a low-grade fever, in a text message to her daughter, Amy Weed-Jones. “I hope it’s just a mistake.”

Weed called her daughter in the middle of the night recently and told her she didn’t think her husband, 75, was going to make it until the morning. Bill Weed has been diagnosed with pneumonia and suffers from fever and debilitating coughing fits.

“I don’t know how much time my dad has, honestly,” Weed-Jones said, before receiving the news her father would be hospitalized. “Every second counts.”

Weed-Jones, along with other relatives of passengers, has been pleading with Florida government officials to allow the Zaandam to dock on humanitarian grounds and because there are Americans on board. But they faced opposition from local officials and the state Governor Ron DeSantis. U.S. President Donald Trump weighed in, pushing for Florida to allow the ships to dock.

The Zaandam had departed Buenos Aires and was a day into its voyage when the U.S. State Department advised Americans on March 8 not to embark on cruises. On March 13, Trump said he asked cruise lines to suspend sailings, though some had already announced they were doing so voluntarily.

‘Without Warning’

Holland America said the Zaandam’s voyage was the victim of an unprecedented crisis that struck “without warning,” in a statement. But parent company Carnival saw its first virus situation two months ago off Yokohama, Japan, when the Diamond Princess was infected with coronavirus and made to enforce a mass quarantine on board. More than 700 people were eventually infected, and for a time it was the largest virus outbreak outside of mainland China.

Under Holland America’s plan, most passengers will be allowed to disembark and then put on charter flights home. About 45 guests with mild illness will quarantine on board, and some with urgent medical needs will be taken to hospitals.

“These travelers could have been any one of us or our families, unexpectedly caught in the middle of this unprecedented closure of global borders that happened in a matter of days and without warning,” Holland America Line President Orlando Ashford said.

When passengers and crew started getting sick on the Zaandam, Holland America sent the Rotterdam to rendezvous off Panama and take on many healthy but vulnerable passengers. One anxious passenger, Yadira Garza, pleaded with Mexican consulate officials to help her and her newlywed husband get off the Zaandam, which she described as the “death ship.”

Read more: Passengers on ‘Death Ship’ Plead for Rescue as Virus Strikes

Among the four people who died earlier in the voyage, two had Covid-19, according to Holland America. Since March 22, 107 guests and 143 crew between both ships have shown flu-like symptoms.

The Zaandam’s voyage was supposed to end in San Antonio, Chile, on March 21. A second leg of the ship’s voyage was supposed to end in Ft. Lauderdale on April 7. The company said it attempted to dock at other ports but was denied entry.

The virus crisis isn’t over for Carnival.

One of the ships in its Princess Cruises line, the Coral Princess, is poised to arrive in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday. On Thursday, the company said that seven Coral Princess passengers and five crew had tested positive for Covid-19.

Cruise operators have been hit financially by coronavirus, with many shuttering operations until at least mid-May. Some Carnival sailings on its flagship line have been canceled through the end of the year.

The suspensions have upended earnings. Carnival is in talks to raise as much as $7 billion to shore up its finances, Bloomberg reported.

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Republican Governors Split on Trump Stay-at-Home Skepticism

President Donald Trump is a skeptic of public-health policies that could harm the economy while saving many thousands of lives. And he has attracted crucial allies among Republican leaders overseeing the movement of millions of Americans.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has resisted enacting orders that would restrict people to their homes — unlike what other large states like New York and California have done. Instead, his office has advised that people older than 65 stay inside. Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves also balked, saying the state isn’t China. And Alabama Governor Kay Ivey has said she has no plans for a state shelter-in-place order, so Birmingham approved its own Tuesday.

Other Republicans, like Ohio’s Mike DeWine, have been leading the charge to slow the virus despite the consequences. Economists estimate social distancing could limit infections and prevent as many as 600,000 additional U.S. deaths. That has set off fierce criticism of those following the lead of Trump, who has repeatedly questioned the need, given the economic costs.

“They have failed the people tremendously,” said Mario King, mayor of Moss Point, Mississippi, population 13,300. The lack of action, especially in a state often ranked one of the nation’s unhealthiest, is negligent and irresponsible, he said. “We have a very vulnerable population.”

GOP Skeptics

Trump has said he’d re-evaluate whether to call for people to return to work after his 15-day strategy to limit social contact elapses next week. On Tuesday, he repeatedly talked about the harm a long-term shutdown would have on the nation.

“This cure is worse than the problem,” Trump said. “In my opinion, more people are going to die if we allow this to continue.”

It created an instant schism among leaders in a party that Trump has thus far shaped in his own image. Officials had to balance danger to their constituents against the president’s expressed wishes.

Conservative leaders quickly backed Trump. Jerry Falwell Jr., head of Liberty University in Virginia, is telling students to return to campus, running counter to other universities’ directives to get students off campus because of fears of spreading the coronavirus. Conservative television pundit Glenn Beck said he would rather die than “kill the country.”

Trump’s own medical experts have said that restrictions on movement and commerce are the only way to curb the pandemic within the U.S. Francis Collins, who leads the National Institutes of Health, said in an interview with The Atlantic that the best case is that measures some states have taken will slow the spread of the disease over months rather than weeks. “That way we won’t have an example like Italy in our own country,” he said.

Some Republican governors have been reluctant to issue stay-at-home orders. Iowa’s Kim Reynolds, a Republican, said Tuesday that health data doesn’t warrant Iowans requiring to remain inside except for essential trips, something neighboring Illinois and Wisconsin have mandated. There are over 140 cases in Iowa, according to the state.

“I don’t want Iowans to think I’m making these decisions lightly,” Reynolds said at a news conference. She added that the decision-making was “fluid” as information changes.

In Florida, DeSantis’s reluctance to issue a stay-at-home order has been met with outcry in the state of 21 million people. He instead merely advised older residents stay in their homes and ordered that visitors from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut self-isolate for 14 days.

Several local governments have taken action themselves. Orange County, Florida, with over 1 million residents, and the city of Orlando issued stay-at-home orders and closed non-essential businesses on Tuesday. The City of Miami’s Republican Mayor Francis Suarez joined them effective at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday.

Despite a growing case count in the Miami metropolitan area, DeSantis noted that Florida still has several counties with no confirmed cases, suggesting that a uniform approach would be inappropriate in such a large state.

Yet even DeSantis is expressing frustration with how the administration has handled restrictions on people’s movement. He said he’s repeatedly brought up concerns about flights from New York with the president, who helped DeSantis get elected, and that ultimately only the federal government could limit air travel.

“It does kind of make no sense,” DeSantis said Wednesday in Orlando. “People fly all over the place from some of the hot zones. I mean, y’know, really? How does that make any sense if we’re trying to contain this thing?”

So far the Florida measures were only enforceable in airports. DeSantis said he had decided against setting up road blocks, saying he didn’t want to clog traffic when emergency medical shipments were sorely needed.

City Goes It Alone

Other governors have stressed that they’re different from the states with large urban areas dealing with outbreaks of the virus, making it unnecessary to issue a stay-at-home order.

“Folks, at this point, we have no current plans to do so,” Ivey said on Tuesday, according to local reports. “We have seen other states in the country doing that, as well as other countries. But however, y’all, we are not California, we’re not New York, we aren’t even Louisiana.”

At a Birmingham City Council meeting, local officials spoke passionately about the importance of saving lives versus saving money. Mayor Randall Woodfin, a Democrat who governs a relative dense, predominantly black city, said the virus isn’t discriminating based on location, race, age or political ideology.

“This is spreading all throughout America,” he said. “In our positions, we have two choices: Option one is to take the lead, be assertive and do everything necessary from a public safety standpoint to protect the residents of this city. Option two is do nothing and wait on other people and fall in line.

“I don’t think option two is an option.”

Wade Perry, who leads the Democratic Party in Alabama, said he would like to see leaders in the state follow the advice of health experts.

“It’s not about politics, it’s not about profits, it’s about people,” he said.

Ohio’s ‘War’

Some Democratic governors, like North Carolina’s Roy Cooper, have also stopped short of issuing a stay-at-home order, leading the county that encompasses Charlotte to implement its own. And not all Republican governors are resisting the measures. In Ohio, DeWine this week ordered that residents stay home, adding that the state is at war with the disease.

DeWine said he and Trump agreed that they wanted to get people back to work as soon as possible. But he said the economy can’t recover if hospitals are overwhelmed.

“We save our economy by first saving lives. We have to do it, and we have to do it in that order,” DeWine said during a news conference Tuesday. “When people are dying, when people don’t feel safe, the economy won’t come back.”

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice, a Republican, praised President Trump’s actions to fight the spread during a news conference, but said his aim to “get back to work” by Easter was ambitious.

“I hope and pray our President knows something I don’t know,” Justice said.

— With assistance by Janet Lorin, Jennifer Kay, and Katherine Rizzo

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Huge Florida lodge listed for $8.2M includes white sand beaches, acres of forest

How will housing market perform in low-tax states?

Rogers Healy and Associates Real Estate owner and CEO Rogers Healy says there will be a steady increase in demand in the housing industry.

A massive $8.2 million log lodge that looks like it belongs somewhere in the Rockies is actually located in northern Florida less than an hour from the beach.

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The 1,249-acre Timber Creek Lodge property includes a 16,015-square-foot home with eight bedrooms and 10 bathrooms, plus 8,552 square-feet of decks, porches and garage, according to the listing with Jon Kohler & Associates. It’s located in Crestview, just north of Destin.

It may be the largest log cabin in the South, according to the brokers.

The highlight of the property may be the land itself. More than three miles of creek flow through the tree-filled land, and the creeks include white-sand beaches.

“It’s shallow, the water is pure,” owner Frank Barnes said in a video promoting the listing. “You could drink the water right out of the creek.”

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The Timber Creek Lodge property includes more than 1,200 acres. (Credit: Jon Kohler & Associates)


There are also three ponds stocked with bass, bream and catfish. And there are multiple hunting blinds. The timber’s value has been estimated at $1,600 per acre, according to the listing.

The home, built in 2007, includes custom woodwork throughout, a front door handcrafted in Vermont and stone imported from Colorado. An elevator connects all three floors, and the home’s spaces for fun include a billiards/game room with a stone fireplace, a movie/media room, a stone-lined wine cellar and a screened-in cooking room with a grill.


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The 16,015-square-foot lodge includes eight bedrooms and 10 bathrooms. (Credit: Jon Kohler & Associates)


The master suite covers an entire 1,266-square-foot wing. It features a fireplace and the master bathroom has dual vanities, a double shower with a waterfall and a hot tub. The master also connects to the third-floor balcony, which overlooks a sandy beach on the creek.

The heated and cooled garage has room for 22 cars. There’s storage for tractors and other equipment that is included with the sale.

The lodge is located 10 minutes from an airport and a short drive to beaches, shopping, dining, golf and other entertainment.


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