Trump said he wants to keep Grand Princess cruise passengers on the ship so that US coronavirus numbers don't 'double.' That strategy failed in Japan.

  • The Grand Princess cruise ship is sitting off the coast of San Francisco, waiting for the CDC's next instructions after 21 passengers and crew tested positive for the new coronavirus.
  • President Trump said Friday that despite what experts tell him, he wants to keep passengers and crew on the ship so that coronavirus cases in the US don't "double."
  • One passenger responded: "He can come on board if he wants and serve us our food and bring me my towel."
  • Japan kept thousands of people onboard the Diamond Princess, another cruise ship from the same company, in a failed quarantine that may have helped the virus spread.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The Grand Princess cruise ship hangs in limbo off the coast of San Francisco after 21 of its passengers and crew members tested positive for the new coronavirus.

It is unclear what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plan to do next, or whether the California state government will allow the ship to dock. In the meantime, the 2,422 passengers onboard have been asked to stay in their rooms. The ship also holds 1,111 crew members, many of whom continue to bring meals to passengers' rooms. 

During a tour at the CDC on Friday, President Donald Trump said that the experts he consults, including Vice President Mike Pence, want to take people off the ship. However, Trump said that he didn't want the passengers raising the total case count in the US.

"I like the numbers being where they are. I don't need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn't our fault," Trump said in a Fox News interview.

But Trump said that he left the decision to the experts even though he disagreed with them.

"It wasn't the fault of the people on the ship either, ok? It wasn't their fault either, and they're mostly American, so I can live either way with it," he added. "I would rather have them stay on personally, but I fully understand if they want to take them off. I gave them the authority to make the decision."

Debbi Loftus, a current passenger on the Grand Princess, responded to Trump's comments in an interview with CNN.

"He can come on board if he wants and serve us our food and bring me my towel," Loftus said. 

An on-ship quarantine in Japan led to over 700 coronavirus cases

The Grand Princess cruise ship is from the same line as the Diamond Princess, which hosted one of the largest outbreaks of the new coronavirus outside of China.

More than 700 people who were on the Diamond Princess tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new virus. The ship sat in the port of Yokohama, Japan, for two weeks in February as the local government placed everyone on board under quarantine.

Experts have criticized the Japanese government's decision to keep passengers and crew on the Diamond Princess, and some have said the quarantine procedures may have even helped the virus spread.

"I'd like to sugarcoat it and try to be diplomatic about it, but it failed," Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told USA Today. "People were getting infected on that ship. Something went awry."

Other experts said that quarantine was unethical and violated human rights.

"The quarantine was not justified, and violated the individual rights of the passengers while allowing the virus to literally pick them off one-by-one," Dr. Amesh Adalja with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security previously told Business Insider.

He added, "the whole idea of the cruise ship quarantine was ill-conceived, and the resultant slew of infections it spawned was completely predictable."

Crew members were especially at risk on that ship, since they still had to share cabins, bring food to passengers, and eat together in a mess hall. 

Dr. Norio Ohmagari, director of Japan's Disease Control and Prevention Center, told CNN that the quarantine "may not have been perfect" and that "scientifically speaking," crew members should have been isolated just like passengers.

But given the conditions on the ship, crew members could not be completely isolated, Yosuke Kita, a senior coordinator at Japan's Ministry of Health, said in a press conference on February 24.

"I admit, our isolation policy was not perfect," Shigeru Omi, another health adviser to the Japanese government, said in the conference. "No place is perfect except in a hospital."

Do you work for Princess Cruises? Are you on the Grand Princess? Contact this reporter at [email protected] You can also reach out securely on Signal at 646-768-4730.

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