Four Sarasotans Still Trapped on Cruise Ship

Todays News

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY FRESHLY SQUEEZED CONTENT EVERY MORNING THURSDAY APR 2, 2020

A cruise ship carrying four Sarasota area residents remains at sea while Florida officials argue whether to let the Holland American cruise ship Zaandam dock in South Florida. The well-being of passengers became a top priority for U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, and state Rep. Margaret Good, D-Sarasota. It’s an issue that at times has put both at odds with Gov. Ron DeSantis, who expressed concerns about letting a ship to port where four people died and 200 are showing flu-like symptoms. The crisis comes as Florida faces the COVID-19 global pandemic, which prompted DeSantis on Wednesday to issue a statewide lockdown order. Notably, Good filed to challenge Buchanan for his Congressional seat this year.

Buchanan communicated with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows twice this week about the need to let the ship dock in Florida and at least pull 49 Florida residents off.  “This is a Florida-based ship and we want to move as quickly as we can,” Buchanan said.

President Donald Trump said he wants the ship to dock. DeSantis, after expressing concerns about bringing sick foreign nationals into the state, said Wednesday he would support letting only Florida passengers de-board. That includes two Sarasotans still on the Zaandam and two that were allowed to move to another Holland American ship. Buchanan said the governor's position was the right one, and has stressed a tantamount desire to get his passengers off the ship as soon as possible."We don't leave our neighbors stranded in the ocean," he said.

Good, meanwhile, wrote to Broward County Commissioners, who run Port Everglades, pleading for them to let the ship dock and let all sick passengers deboard. “It is inhumane to allow the ship to simply stay at shore,” Good wrote. She shared a text message from a constituent trapped on the Zaandam with her ill husband. “Besides the virus he has pneumonia,” the text reads. “The nurse has seen him several times but they keep giving him more pills that often he cannot swallow.” Good wants to see Florida leaders work with other states, the federal government and other nations to get all passengers where they need to be.

“In times of crisis, we must rise to the occasion,” she said. “We don’t turn our backs on people who are gravely ill.” Broward officials have yet to approve a plan for the ship to dock.

Photo courtesy Holland American: The Zaandam.

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