DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Twenty-two Iowans are among the thousands of passengers and crew who were quarantined on a cruise ship docked in Northern California, and most of them are preparing to return home, state officials said Tuesday.
At least 21 of the roughly 3,500 passengers and crew on board the Grand Princess have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, officials said. The Princess Cruises ship docked in Oakland on Monday and began letting passengers disembark into quarantine.
Four of the Iowa residents won’t immediately return home, but the other 18 will be flown back on a government-chartered flight, Gov. Kim Reynolds said. None of them currently have symptoms of the disease, but they will be screened for it before they board the plane and again when they arrive.
They live in various communities in Iowa and will be quarantined at home, Reynolds said.
The virus has infected more than 700 people in the U.S. and killed at least 27, with one state after another recording its first infections in quick succession.
For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
The vast majority of people recover from the virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild cases recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe ones may take three to six weeks to get better.
Eight people from Iowa have tested positive for COVID-19. Seven were among a group of 21 Iowans who were on a recent Egyptian cruise. All seven positive patients are recovering at home in isolation. The other 14 also were also quarantined at their homes and were being monitored by the state Department of Public Health. Ten of them have been tested for the virus and results are pending.
State health investigators have determined the Egyptian cruise passengers have had limited interaction in their communities since returning home and haven’t attended any large public events, meaning their potential risk to others is considered low.
The eighth Iowa patient is from Pottawattamie County, in the west of the state. That person recently came in contact with a sick person while visiting California and is recovering at home in isolation.
Reynolds said the number of tests and positive cases will likely continue to rise, so the state is moving from prevention to mitigation of the disease.
“While this news is concerning it’s not cause for alarm,” she said. “I want to assure Iowans that we are prepared, and we are taking additional steps to ensure access to resources to effectively manage the situation.”