Program ended by Trump administration last year helped labs detect viruses that could turn into pandemics

After being turned away from ports in South America, Holland America’s Zaandam cruise ship was allowed to dock at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Thursday afternoon.

Nine people on board the ship have tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus. Holland America’s owner, Carnival Corp., said there are 45 passengers who are mildly sick, and they will stay on the ship to recover. The company reported that 10 people on board are in need of urgent medical attention, and four elderly passengers have died, with at least two due to COVID-19.

The Zaandam set sail from Buenos Aires on March 7, and was supposed to have stops in Chile and other South American ports before heading to Fort Lauderdale. As the coronavirus continued to spread, the Zaandam was not allowed to dock at its scheduled ports. The last time passengers and crew members were able to get off the boat was on March 14, and passengers have been self-quarantining in their rooms since March 22.

With nowhere else to go, the Zaandam waited off the coast of Panama, and its sister ship, the Rotterdam, came to its aid, picking up healthy passengers and taking them on board. Holland America, Carnival Corp., and Florida officials spent days working on an agreement that allowed the Zaandam and Rotterdam to disembark passengers at Port Everglades. Because of the number of COVID-19 cases in Florida, local officials were concerned about overwhelming hospitals with the sick ship passengers.

There are 1,250 passengers and 1,186 crew members on the Zaandam and Rotterdam, The Associated Press reports. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said passengers and crew who do not show symptoms of the virus will be put on private buses, driven to local airports, and directly boarded onto airplanes. Holland America said most will be going home on charter flights. Catherine Garcia

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