Letter to the Editor: Cancel spring cruise ship arrivals now

To the Editor: 

I attended the Cruise Ship Committee Meeting Thursday March 12 to learn more about how the (soon to arrive) cruise ships and the coronavirus threat will be addressed. I applaud the recommendation to form a coronavirus committee that can address the many issues our community may face during this stressful time, which could last weeks or months. 

However, I was disheartened to hear the Committee Chair say “We cannot cancel cruise ship season. That is not responsible.” While the federal government and private entities across the country and state (including cruise ship companies) are canceling events, closing schools and instituting telework, the committee discussed how the cruise ship industry was taking measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus in our community when they land on our shore. They spoke of multiple screening of passengers, onboard testing and even onboard virus-detector machines. They spoke of taking temperatures and evaluating anyone with a temp of 100.4 (what would they do with a passenger with a temperature of 100?). All of this will not mitigate our risk or the impact on our limited resources, but temporarily banning cruise ships will. 

The Coast Guard official reassured the group that they were not counting on sending the sick to MDI Hospital, but when pressed, did admit that a critical patient could be taken to our tiny local hospital.  

The chair of the committee and the cruise ship representative suggested that 5,000 people on a cruise ship in a confined space being released into our community was no different and heck maybe even safer than the many tourists arriving by car as the cruise ship patients (whoops I mean passengers) are screened more frequently. 

One only has to look at CDC recommendations regarding cruises to understand the danger of confining large numbers of people in one space. CDC recommends travelers, particularly those with underlying health issues, defer all cruise ship travel worldwide. Cruise ship passengers are at increased risk of person-to-person spread of infectious diseases, including COVID-19. 

I urge the Cruise Ship Committee to recommend canceling spring cruise ship arrivals now. That is the responsible thing to do. 

Jacqueline Levesque 

Bar Harbor 

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