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Summerlin family stuck on quarantined cruise ship off California coast

Three Las Vegas family members are among thousands of passengers confined to a cruise ship quarantined off the California coast.

“I firmly believe fear is widespread … and none of us know when we will be allowed out of our cabins or off this ship,” said Ron Griebell, a Summerlin man who, along with his wife and daughter, boarded the Grand Princess on Feb. 21 for a trip to Hawaii.

On Thursday, the ship’s captain announced over the public-address system that, starting after lunch, passengers would be confined to their rooms for the remainder of the cruise, Griebell said. The cruise is on its return trip from Hawaii.

Griebell said that he and his wife, Sandra Hahnenkratt, and daughter, Susan Hahnenkratt, were all healthy on Thursday. Susan Hahnenkratt treated her parents to the cruise as an early 80th birthday present for the couple, both 78.

Many passengers on the Grand Princess are older, and some are disabled, Griebell said in an interview via Facebook Messenger.

Representatives from Carnival Corp.’s Princess Cruises did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday that a patient who died of COVID-19 had been aboard a cruise on the Grand Princess that traveled from San Francisco to Mexico and back Feb. 10-21.

Newsom said several passengers and crew members showed COVID-19 symptoms, and officials requested that the ship delay its arrival and keep passengers on board until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could test them for the virus and determine how to proceed.

All passengers were to be tested because a number of passengers from the Mexico cruise stayed on board for the trip to Hawaii, Newsom said.

“So we are availing the testing protocols not just to those who are symptomatic, but also to address some of the anxieties of those previous passengers that are holdovers on the second cruise,” he said.

Griebell said more than 60 passengers and an unknown number of crew members were quarantined shortly after the crew learned that the patient had tested positive, but the remaining passengers were not quarantined until Thursday.

A helicopter delivered COVID-19 testing kits to the ship. All passengers were tested Thursday morning, but they were told they might not learn the results until Friday.

“None of us on board know what will happen if any of those test kits test positive,” Griebell said, “and no one has told us a thing about those possibilities.”

Earlier cruise quarantined

The Diamond Princess was quarantined at the start of January off the coast of Japan after a passenger tested positive for COVID-19. More than 700 passengers ultimately tested positive for the virus.

Griebell said that only the ship’s captain has provided updates on the situation, which has left some passengers confused. The ship extended free Wi-Fi to all passengers after the quarantine began, so most news is coming from outside the ship.

“To be very honest, for me, it has led me to believe they know more than they are telling us,” Griebell said, “or they are intentionally not giving us the information we require to know what the hell is going on.”

Passengers have heard no estimate from the crew on how long they’ll be confined to their cabins or the ship. Griebell said the passengers don’t know exactly where the ship is located right now.

He said that passengers had a cursory health screening just before they boarded the ship, but none was examined after leaving the ship at port and then returning aboard.

Quarantine procedures

Before the quarantine, the ship’s captain relayed CDC guidelines to the passengers and crew, instructing them to keep six feet away from other people and leave an empty seat between them during meals.

That’s no easy feat on a crowded cruise ship, Griebell said.

After the Thursday quarantine announcement, meals were only to be delivered to passengers’ rooms, but Griebell said he fears that infected crew members could spread the virus to others during those deliveries.

“The crew has been wonderful on this ship,” he said, “but not sure how much more pressure can be put on them before that begins to change.”

If the ship remains under quarantine, Griebell said he’ll understand — he doesn’t want to unwittingly spread the disease to his neighbors. But he noted that he’ll run out of medication if he remains on the ship for more than a week.

Griebell said that even though officials reported a presumptive positive COVID-19 case in Southern Nevada, he’s ready to come home.

“If I am sick, I would rather be in my home in Sun City Summerlin,” he said.

Contact Max Michor at mmichor@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0365. Follow @MaxMichor on Twitter.

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