MIAMI, Fla. -- A Tappahannock couple are onboard a cruise ship off the coast of Florida waiting for word from officials whether they can disembark and return home.
Emily and David Brazell boarded the Zaandam cruise ship on March 7 for a 20-day excursion in South America.
However, numerous countries have since denied the Holland America Line ships entry as the surge of confirmed COVID-19 cases began to spread. Wednesday marked 18 days since any of the passengers have stepped on land.
“It’s been every government on the way that’s been no, no, no,” Emily Brazell said. “We came very far south and as we moved northward everything closed.”
The couple boarded the ship at a time when there were about 400 coronavirus cases in the United States. That number has soared to more than 186,000 as of Wednesday afternoon, according to the CDC.
A handful of confirmed cases were reported throughout South America at the start of the Brazell’s trip.
“I felt better about sitting [on the ship] than doing my daily life around the Washington D.C. area,” Emily explained. Crews had denied boarding to passengers from Italy, South Korea and China -- deemed hot spots for the virus.
The Brazells and other healthy passengers were eventually moved to another ship called the Rotterdam on Saturday.
She said the company has been accommodating, offering passengers extravagant meals, wine and unlimited phone calls. They have been ordered to remain inside their rooms.
“The captain said something like, ‘This is not a trip anymore. This is not a cruise. This is a humanitarian mission,’” she recalled.
The Rotterdam now has nearly 800 guests and more than 600 crew members.
More than 300 U.S. citizens are on both ships combined.
Two of four deaths on the Zaandam were blamed on COVID-19 and nine people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the cruise company said. At least 190 more reported symptoms.
In a Tuesday task force press conference, President Donald Trump said he planned to intervene and speak with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
DeSantis told reporters Wednesday that only residents from the Sunshine State will be allowed to disembark. He cited the limited hospital beds available in the midst of the pandemic.
The U.S. Coast Guard has also directed all cruise ships to prepare to treat any sick passengers and crew on board while being sequestered "indefinitely" offshore during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m very upset that people are being so unkind,” Emily stated. “We have heard there were people with severe medical conditions that have since died that were refused medevac.”
She hoped U.S. officials allowed passengers from all countries the help they need.
“That’s not what we do as Americans,” Emily said. “We help people and we welcome people.”