Two Holland America Line cruise ships that had been stranded at sea with passengers infected with the coronavirus were given permission Thursday to dock in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
"It's a go, everything is signed," said Barbara Sharief, a Broward County commissioner, on the decision to allow the ships to dock. "I'm happy. These people need to get off this ship and go home. I'm glad we could help them."
The Rotterdam and Zaandam docked Thursday evening at Port Everglades. The two ships combined carried 1,250 passengers. About 233 passengers and crew members between both ships had experienced flu-like symptoms, according to a statement from Holland America.
Four elderly passengers aboard the Zaandam have died. Two of the deaths have been attributed to COVID-19.
Whether to let the ships dock had been debated for several days, as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and members of the Broward County Commission worried about the risk of allowing so many sick passengers on land.
Asymptomatic passengers will be allowed to disembark Friday or Saturday, while about 45 symptomatic passengers will remain onboard. Nine critically ill passengers, including one crew member, will be taken off the ship immediately and taken to local hospitals.
The Zaandam departed Argentina's capital March 7. Holland America later deployed the Rotterdam to offer supplies, staff and other support.