As the U.S. shifts from “containment” to “mitigation,” officials warn of “two months … of difficulty.” Grand Princess cruise ship is set to dock Monday at the Port of Oakland.
As a cruise ship with nearly 3,000 stranded travelers prepares to dock Monday in the Port of Oakland, top health officials warned that the country has entered a new stage in dealing with the deadly coronavirus — one in which containment is no longer possible.
“We’re past the point of containment,” Dr. Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration during the first two years of President Trump’s administration, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
“We have to implement broad mitigation strategies. The next two weeks are really going to change the complexion in this country. We’ll get through this, but it’s going to be a hard period. We’re looking at two months, probably, of difficulty,” Gottlieb said.
U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said that shifting to a mitigation phase means that communities will see more cases and need to start thinking about whether it makes sense to cancel large gatherings, close schools and make it more feasible for employees to work from home.
That’s what happened Sunday, with more reported school closings, warnings against group gatherings and cancellation of big events, such as the BNP Paribas Open, an Indian Wells tennis tournament scheduled to start this week.
“And that’s going to be different in Seattle than what it’s going to be in Jackson, Miss.,” Adams said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “But communities need to have that conversation and prepare for more cases so we can prevent more deaths.”
Hours later on Sunday, health officials in central Washington reported the state’s 19th death attributed to COVID-19, the first outside the Seattle area.
The resident of Quincy, Wash., whose gender was not disclosed, was “in their 80s,” officials had said previously, and died at Central Washington Hospital in Wenatchee. The person had not traveled outside of the country recently, and was the only resident of Grant County to have tested positive for the disease.
In California, Santa Clara County has been hardest hit, with five new cases Sunday, bringing its total to 37. The only other counties nationwide with higher numbers are King County, Wash., and Westchester County, N.Y.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that people who are older or have underlying health conditions should also consider avoiding large crowds and travel.
“If you are an elderly person with an underlying condition, if you get infected, the risk of getting into trouble is considerable,” Fauci said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“So it’s our responsibility to protect the vulnerable. When I say protect, I mean right now. Not wait until things get worse. Say no large crowds, no long trips. And above all, don’t get on a cruise ship.”
The comments from current and former officials marked a big shift, acknowledging that the country is past the point of being able to contain the outbreak and needs to pivot to aggressive efforts to mitigate the virus’ spread.
Trump administration officials have previously sought to downplay the risk to Americans posed by the coronavirus outbreak.
In California, officials said the Grand Princess cruise ship would dock Monday at the Port of Oakland and outlined plans for the nearly 3,000 people aboard the ship, about 1,000 of whom are from California. They stressed that no one on board would be released immediately to the general public.
All of those passengers will be quarantined for 14 days at military installations, the Department of Health and Human Services said.
The Port of Oakland was chosen because it is one of a limited number of docks that can accommodate a ship the size of the Grand Princess, and because it was the easiest “to seal off, securely move passengers toward their isolation destinations and protect the safety of the public,” the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services said in a statement.
On Sunday, Gov. Gavin Newsom said the ship would dock Monday at the commercial Port of Oakland to disembark all passengers and those who need medical attention.
The governor expected the operation to take up to three days but emphasized that the situation was “fluid” and could take longer, in part because the port does not regularly deal with cruise ships and there would only be small windows of opportunity for it to enter the port, based on tides and currents.
Newsom said that after the medical cases disembark, California residents would be taken off the ship first, with the majority being sent to Travis Air Force base in nearby Solano County to begin a 14-day quarantine.