A Carnival Cruise ship passenger has died from the coronavirus after testing positive for COVID-19 while sailing from Texas to Belize, making the first reported passenger death due to the virus since the cruise line industry was permitted to resume travel in June.
The woman had set sail from Galveston on the Carnival Vista cruise ship on July 31, a company spokesperson confirmed to HuffPost, but later had to be medically evacuated from the ship due to a COVID-19 health emergency, the Belize Tourism Board said in a statement.
The passenger, whom The New York Times reported was a 77-year-old woman from Oklahoma, was diagnosed with the virus and later returned to the U.S. where she died.
According to a GoFundMe page reportedly belonging to the woman’s family, she was first admitted to a hospital in Belize and placed on a ventilator for several days before being brought back to the U.S. and hospitalized in Tulsa on Aug. 6.
“She was so excited to take her first trip outside the US,” the page reads. It added that funds were being raised to help pay for travel and medical expenses incurred due to her health insurance not covering medical care outside the U.S.
A Carnival spokesperson expressed condolences to the family and said that it’s unlikely that the woman contracted the virus on the ship.
“Regrettably, there is a fair amount of disinformation about the circumstances of this matter,” the company said in a statement. “The guest almost certainly did not contract COVID on our ship, and she was assisted with expert medical care on board and was ultimately evacuated from Belize after we provided a resource to her family.”
On Aug. 9, several days after the woman’s return to the U.S., Belize stopped allowing cruise ship passengers from other countries to disembark unless they tested negative for the coronavirus, regardless of their vaccination status, according to the Belize Tourism Board.
Two days after this rule went into effect, the tourism board reported that the returning Carnival Vista, carrying a fresh load of 2,895 guests and 1,441 crew members from Texas, arrived with 27 positive coronavirus cases on board. All but one of those cases were with crew members. The board added that everyone who tested positive had been vaccinated against the virus.
Carnival Cruise Line on Aug. 14 began requiring all passengers, regardless of vaccination status, to get tested for the virus within three days of embarking. Over the weekend, the company also announced that it will require passengers to provide proof of vaccination unless they are under 12 or an adult with certain medical conditions. This decision follows the Bahamas last week issuing an emergency order that bars cruise ships from entering its ports unless all passengers over the age of 12 have been vaccinated.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday advised people with a higher risk of severe complications from COVID-19 to avoid traveling on cruises, regardless of their vaccination status, amid reports of coronavirus outbreaks on ships.
Those not fully vaccinated should also avoid cruise ship travel, and all cruise passengers should get tested for the virus before and after their trip, regardless of vaccination status, the CDC advises.
“The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads easily between people in close quarters aboard ships, and the chance of getting COVID-19 on cruise ships is high,” the CDC said.