Public Health Responds to Coronavirus and Cruise Ship Questions

Public Health Responds to Coronavirus and Cruise Ship Questions title=
Public Health Responds to Coronavirus and Cruise Ship Questions
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Cruise ship off the coast of Santa Barbara (Photo: Patti Gutshall)
Update by Santa Barbara County Public Health Department
March 3, 2020

Currently, there are no cases of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Santa Barbara County. The health risk from COVID-19 to the public remains low at this time. However, with the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S. and California, the public has expressed concern in regards to the health and screening of cruise ship passengers disembarking in Santa Barbara Harbor. 

Santa Barbara County officials have been planning and preparing should COVID-19 be identified in the county. The County Public Health Department (PHD) is working closely with its healthcare partners and providing ongoing guidance and alerts in close coordination with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

To address concerns about arriving cruise ships, the PHD has assessed the situation and collaborated with the City of Santa Barbara, Waterfront Department to compile the following frequently asked questions. 

Q. What measures are being taken to ensure the safety of community members when cruise ships arrive in Santa Barbara? 

A. Cruise ships are subject to federal and global regulations as outlined below. When sailing in U.S. waters and calling in U.S. ports, cruise vessels are subject to rules and regulations set by the (CDC), Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and the U.S. Coast Guard. In addition to this, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) sets standards for membership, including medical care and public health. CLIA has recently set cruise ship standards in response to COVID-19 for companies that belong to their organization. This includes denying boarding to passengers who have traveled from countries of concern, as well as increased screening procedures. 

Additionally, a number vessels arriving in the Santa Barbara Harbor meet healthcare standards set by the International Standards Organization (ISO), whose stringent standards focus on a variety topics, including public health and infection control methods. NOTE: travel restrictions and healthcare standards applied for guests are also applied to crew members.

Practices used by cruise ships to prevent the spread of COVID-19: 


Point of Origin: Domestic & Global 

Health screening of passengers and crew prior to boarding cruise ship to Santa Barbara 


Guests and crew prohibited from boarding cruise ship traveling to Santa Barbara if there is a suspect travel history 


Sanitation measures taken during journey 


Reporting of communicable diseases to relevant agencies prior to arrival in Santa Barbara 


Q. What additional screening is done prior to guest and crew disembarking? 

A. Many cruise lines have mechanisms in place to prevent the disembarkation of guests and crew who are being actively monitored for infectious illnesses. Increased screening protocols prior to boarding the vessel reduces the risk of infection onboard. 

Q. Should I wear a mask when cruise passengers are in Santa Barbara? 

A. Masks are not recommended when a cruise ship arrives in Santa Barbara. CDC recommendations state that masks are not an effective method for the public to protect themselves from a respiratory illness such as COVID-19. Public health officials remind the public to stay vigilant and continue to practice routine hygiene methods to prevent the spread of any virus, such as: 

o Frequent hand washing with soap and water 

o Avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands 

o Cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough with your arm or tissue (discard tissue) 

o Stay home if you are sick 

Q. Could the situation that occurred on the Diamond Princess Cruise ship occur again? 

A. The extraordinary situation that occurred on the Diamond Princess is unlikely to repeat. At the time of the Diamond Princess situation, COVID-19 was fairly new and screening procedures were not fully developed. Since then, many of the cruise lines stopping in Santa Barbara have developed robust screening protocols for crew and guests, increased sanitization procedures, and developed protocols for refusing guest and crew based on their travel history. Additionally, new government restrictions and advisories are in place to help mitigate the risk of spreading the virus. 

Q. How does the City of Santa Barbara handle concerns with COVID-19 and other infectious diseases on cruise ships? 

A. The City relies on direction from the County PHD, CDC, CBP, and USCG with regards to infection control. CBP has jurisdiction and decision-making authority with regards to vessel clearance, quarantine and other requirements. USCG and CBP, with guidance from the CDC, are responsible for tracking cruise ship and cargo vessel arrival. Additionally, they have increased the Notice of Arrival requirements for inbound vessels from 4 days to 14 days. CBP and USCG are actively tracking vessel arrivals based upon crew demographics and recent ports of call and will evaluate every vessel arrival for potential exposure and/or infection. 

Q. What happens if a cruise ship bound for Santa Barbara has someone experiencing COVID-19 symptoms? 

A. In the event a passenger or crew member tests positive for COVID-19, the ship would be diverted to one of three West Coast quarantine stations (San Francisco, Los Angeles or San Diego). The CDC guidelines and response procedures related to cruise ships passengers and crew are posted online at: 

Q. Does the City plan to halt cruise ships coming to Santa Barbara? 

A. As of now, the City has not cancelled any scheduled cruise ship visits, but will continue to monitor the situation and take actions based on recommendations from the PHD, CDC and CBP. The CDC and CBP evaluate each incoming cruise ship and will not allow it to port/disembark in Santa Barbara unless it is deemed safe to do so. To date, no instances of COVID-19 have been identified at the nearby ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach or Hueneme. If there is a concern about any vessel arriving in Southern California ports, the Coast Guard will share all relevant information to appropriate agencies to ensure public health concerns are addressed. 

Q. How many cruise ships port in Santa Barbara per year? Where are most cruise ships from and what routes do they take? 

A. The City typically receives around 30 cruise ships per year scheduled during the spring and fall. The majority of the cruises originate in San Francisco, Los Angeles or San Diego travelling on West Coast routes. The vast majority of passengers are from the United States and Canada. 

Q. What cruise ships are scheduled to port in Santa Barbara? 

A. The cruise ship schedule is posted on the City’s website at

For additional reliable information on COVID-19, please visit the following websites. 


By an edhat reader

Is the City of Santa Barbara taking coronavirus precautions with the cruise ships that are scheduled to dock here?

The current schedule has the next one arriving Wednesday (3/4/20) with another on March 24 and 25th. 

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Longing2bhome Mar 09, 2020 11:26 AM
Public Health Responds to Coronavirus and Cruise Ship Questions

It seems the powers that be will not stop cruise ships from docking as we "need the tourist money". Greedy, selfish. Willing to introduce a deadly virus for the sake of money. Being enablers and allowing the homelessness and encampments to get out of control, do they not think that is detrimental to tourist revenue?

MyHonorStudentB Mar 05, 2020 08:29 PM
Public Health Responds to Coronavirus and Cruise Ship Questions

I agree with those who believe public health is downplaying the risks. That other news outlet ran an interview with Dr. A that had me throwing things at the computer screen. Clearly, they think we are just all a herd of panic stampeders who need to be lied to and told that everything is under control and there is just nothing to worry our pretty little heads about. The reality is that it is still way too early to tell, but this could escalate very rapidly, the illness is spreading like wildfire on a daily basis, it kills and not just "old people" and even if so are you happy with a die-off of your aunts and uncles and older neighbors? Really? I don't know if he was misquoted, but the line that this rapidly emerging new pathogen will "take its place" with seasonal flu is simply wrong and goes contrary to the actual statements of Dr. Fauci and other national level experts who clearly distinguish seasonal flu, with its' .1 mortality rate, from pandemic COVID-19. I wish they would bring back Dr. Takashi Wada, he would not be gaslighting us like this.

a-1583437935 Mar 05, 2020 11:52 AM
Public Health Responds to Coronavirus and Cruise Ship Questions

Don't shake hands with any visiting cruise passengers and then stick your own fingers up your own nose. That should cover your level of corona risks from any disembarking cruise passengers. Sit at restaurant tables over 6 feet away from them in case they cough or sneeze. Give them the stinky eye as if they were radioactive toxic waste dumps on legs and cameras around the necks. That'll show them never to come back here ever again.

a-1583473123 Mar 05, 2020 09:38 PM
Public Health Responds to Coronavirus and Cruise Ship Questions

Alcohol swabs-downs of their credit cards, but don't screw up their electronic chips, silly. Kah-ching. Demand only freshly laundered money. Coins are already bacteriostatic so demand they pay only with pennies. Everyone needs a Plan B.

SBHope Mar 05, 2020 09:06 AM
Public Health Responds to Coronavirus and Cruise Ship Questions

I appreciate that the Santa Barbara City "Leadership" is concerned about a loss of revenue if we turn away cruise ships. I'm just curious though how much money would be lost if the city gets a single bad story in the press about a cruise ship spreading the virus here.

Does the city not get far more revenue from tourists from LA, etc. driving here to get away and stay in our hotels, eat at our restaurants and go wine tasting than from all the cruise ships. A lot of those people from LA would stop coming here for months if we just get one bad story in the press about Santa Barbara and Convid-19.

I'm sure our city "leaders" are far wiser than I am however. So I am certain they, as always, know what is really in our best interest.

a-1583437653 Mar 05, 2020 11:47 AM
Public Health Responds to Coronavirus and Cruise Ship Questions

Stories and letters to editors about the bum-pandhandling gauntlet on State Street and vagrants camps have definitely had an impact on local tourism. One corona virus case quarantined on a visiting cruise ship, not so much. Not everyone is buying into this corona virus hysteria, but they don't like getting accosted by our gauntlet of bums when they are out and about on their vacation.

a-1583422362 Mar 05, 2020 07:32 AM
Public Health Responds to Coronavirus and Cruise Ship Questions

It only takes one: 3/4/20 Gavin Newson: "Health officials believe both cruise ship patients were exposed while they were on the Grand Princess cruise from San Francisco to Mexico from Feb. 11 to Feb. 21. Newsom said more than half of 2,500 aboard the February cruise, which docked in San Francisco, are California residents.Newsom said California will be flying thousands of test kits out to the ship. “There’s a reason that we didn’t want the ship in the Port of San Francisco and in the state of California at this time,” Newsom said. The Placer County person had symptoms as early as Feb. 19, according to Placer County Health Officer Aimee Sisson. Emergency personnel were called to the person's home in Rocklin, about 110 miles (180 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco, on Feb. 27, when the person was admitted to a hospital. The cruise ship is at sea but is expected to skip its next port and return to San Francisco by Thursday, according to a statement from Dr. Grant Tarling, the chief medical officer for the Carnival Corp., which operates the Grand Princess. Any current passengers who were also on the February trip will be screened. Newsom said the cruise ship, with thousands of people aboard, will be held offshore until passengers can be tested.“ The ship will not come on shore until we appropriately assess the passengers,” he said.

a-1583424204 Mar 05, 2020 08:03 AM
Public Health Responds to Coronavirus and Cruise Ship Questions

Yep, came here to post this. City of SB claiming the Diamond Princess situation is "unlikely to repeat" is naive and shortsighted. A cruise ship is the perfect storm for spreading illness, that's why they are a common site for norovirus and similar. I hope the City's attorneys are well-prepared to deny entry to any and every cruise ship at risk.

ChillinGrillin Mar 04, 2020 11:36 PM
Public Health Responds to Coronavirus and Cruise Ship Questions

Given that cruise ships have repeatedly been caught dumping their septic tanks in the Channel and Coronavirus can be carried in feces, I'm wondering if anybody from the CDC or County Health Dept. can elaborate on any methods to prevent Corona dookie from getting in my mouth when I'm surfing. Thx XO

a-1583473520 Mar 05, 2020 09:45 PM
Public Health Responds to Coronavirus and Cruise Ship Questions

Chillingrillen - that is a total lie about illegal dumping in the Channel. Why did you say this? You would have the Coast Guard and the Channel Keepers all over their case in a second. Any fecal pollution of our local waters is not coming from cruise ships; if comes from vagrant camps.

a-1583373049 Mar 04, 2020 05:50 PM
Public Health Responds to Coronavirus and Cruise Ship Questions

"California is declaring a state of emergency (March 4) in light of its 1st death due to coronavirus in Placer County AND b/c of the revelation that person was likely exposed during a Feb. 11-21 cruise on a Princess cruise ship that departed from San Francisco to Mexico, Gov. Newsom says."

a-1583370086 Mar 04, 2020 05:01 PM
Public Health Responds to Coronavirus and Cruise Ship Questions

I wonder if the undiagnosed have been tested and when we might heard of results. It only makes people wonder what’s really going on when PHD says we have no confirmed cases and just doesn’t fully explain status of the 10 suspect cases in SB County. From KCLU...

Santa Barbara County Public Health officials say ten people are currently self-quarantined in the county for possible coronavirus exposure. Again, there have been no diagnosed cases in Santa Barbara County.

a-1583369027 Mar 04, 2020 04:43 PM
Public Health Responds to Coronavirus and Cruise Ship Questions

Grand Princess. "The GRAND PRINCESS cruise ship which stops often in Santa Barbara and is scheduled for a 3/24 visit has a message out to passengers on the Feb. 11-21 trip to Mexico from San Francisco about some reported illnesses. The current Mexico stop in Ensenada is off. It is returning to SF"-- from John Palminteri's Twitter today.

a-1583368166 Mar 04, 2020 04:29 PM
Public Health Responds to Coronavirus and Cruise Ship Questions

Gov. Newsome 4:15pm Wed. press conference now. Grand Princess ship will be kept offshore and not allowed in port. Some passengers and crew members have developed symptoms. Test kits will be flown to ship, and keep ship offshore.

Bobbyk Mar 04, 2020 04:01 PM
Public Health Responds to Coronavirus and Cruise Ship Questions

WASHINGTON — A medical professional who conducted passenger screenings at Los Angeles International Airport tested positive for the coronavirus late Tuesday night, according to the Department of Homeland Security and an internal email obtained by NBC News.
The person last worked screening air travelers for illness on Feb. 21, the DHS said in a statement, which also said the medical professional had worn the proper protective gear while working. The internal email described the person as a "contract medical screener" for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

OAITW Mar 04, 2020 02:17 PM
Public Health Responds to Coronavirus and Cruise Ship Questions

One thing that is 100% for sure, unlike everything said in this release from the public health department, is that if the cruise ship not allowed to disembark passengers here, no one in Santa Barbara will be infected with COVID 19 from those passengers. Our city council is gambling with our lives for a little revenue from a cruise ship.

MyHonorStudentB Mar 05, 2020 08:34 PM
Public Health Responds to Coronavirus and Cruise Ship Questions

Despite our previous squabble I have to agree with you "For the 40 billionth time, COVID-19 is not the flu ... it's a different disease, caused by a different organism". Can't understand so many people making good points get down voted so much on EH, and you are making a good point here.

jqb Mar 04, 2020 02:58 PM
Public Health Responds to Coronavirus and Cruise Ship Questions

For the 40 billionth time, COVID-19 is not the flu ... it's a different disease, caused by a different organism, and has a much higher mortality rate. And yes, of course, it hits older people harder -- the mortality rate is over 14% (a lot higher than for the flu) among those 80 and over, and 8% (a lot higher than for the flu) among those 70-79. So yes, cruises are popular with older folks, but neither that or anything else in your comment is *relevant* to anything.

a-1583362322 Mar 04, 2020 02:52 PM
Public Health Responds to Coronavirus and Cruise Ship Questions

The one SF cruise passenger to Mexico who recently died, who also conicidentally tested for corona was very elderly with underlying health problems. They are vulnerable to flu period. In fact in hospital circles, flu was once called 'the old man's friend". LATimes has the full story. Cruising always attracts an older crowd, particularly when schools are in session. People do die on cruise ships, just like anywhere else. They have special refrigerated morgues for them onboard. Ever hear of bucket lists, things people want to do before they die. Travel often ranks at the top of the list. How does that affect the co-morbidity for corona exposure?

tagdes Mar 04, 2020 02:39 PM
Public Health Responds to Coronavirus and Cruise Ship Questions

Actually not 100% since they think the present transfer from the SF cruise death passenger to others happened on an airport shuttle. The stops here are coastal and relocation cruises and numerous posts on cruise critic say they also stop here with rental cars or by Amtrak as many drive back to LA or San Diego after disembarking in SF or Seattle. So many that can't stop on the cruise might be here a few days or a week later.

tagdes Mar 04, 2020 01:54 PM
Public Health Responds to Coronavirus and Cruise Ship Questions

The first person to die from the coronavirus here in CA was on the Grand Princess on the cruise prior to the current cruise and another from it has the virus and was taken to an undisclosed location. Others from that cruise are being watched and the current cruise has canceled it's Ensenada stop having being directed immediately back to San Francisco, it's embarkation port. This shows urgency as it goes against the Jones Act since it was a San Francisco to Hawaii cruise and is now not stopping at a foreign port.
This ship is scheduled to stop here on it's next cruise the upcoming 24th of this month. Princess claims it will have thorough screening and disinfecting in SF and has not as of yet cancelled. We'll see how receptive MX is after this latest news breaks.

a-1583360877 Mar 04, 2020 02:27 PM
Public Health Responds to Coronavirus and Cruise Ship Questions

The only urgency is the need to stop the bad press hysteria for the cruise industry. I don't blame them. But sometimes like the Alar apple scare, etc, etc, people just need to get crazy. Some deep underlying fear they are not acknowledging in our rapidly changing world, getting acted out as this cruise ship hysteria. The Other is out to get you. But social pressure keeps people from naming The Other, so surrogate are used .Much like Lord of Flies, all over again. Mob hysteria cut loose.

a-1583340679 Mar 04, 2020 08:51 AM
Public Health Responds to Coronavirus and Cruise Ship Questions

Just read this (NY Post 2/19)) re the Diamond Princess Cruise. (Interesting how the youtube video was removed: "Meanwhile, in a scathing video uploaded to YouTube Tuesday, Kentaro Iwata, an infectious disease expert at Kobe University, who spent time on board the Diamond Princess, said the vessel’s infection control measures leave much to be desired.. The cruise ship was completely inadequate in terms of the infection control,” Iwata said. “There was no distinction between the green zone, which is free of infection, and the red zone, which is potentially contaminated by the virus.”

a-1583342413 Mar 04, 2020 09:20 AM
Public Health Responds to Coronavirus and Cruise Ship Questions

Japan threw this ship into quarantine with zero advice notice. Plus it was based upon the positive testing of a piror passenger. This is a quote without context. That particular ship was faced with a tremendous budern - thousands of passengers expecting to diembark and go home, now confined to rely on available ships resources that was caught between passenger demands to get off, and crews ability to keep them locked up inside. Hardly a good example of current responses. But you made the point you wanted to make. Class envy.

rwelsh Mar 04, 2020 08:19 AM
Public Health Responds to Coronavirus and Cruise Ship Questions

I hear all of you. Not panicking... just going to give State Street restaurants and stores a miss the next week or so during & after a cruise ship disenbarking... just because. I'm not alone. Its easy enough to do. Interesting sentence above: "Many cruise lines have mechanisms in place to prevent the disembarkation of guests". Many, but not all? Hmmm. Thanks EH for this article.

Candle Mar 04, 2020 12:46 PM
Public Health Responds to Coronavirus and Cruise Ship Questions

If you can promise me that local workers will stay home if they are sick, I will keep going out to eat. You can't.

I hope the fed does some sort expanded unemployment benefit to help these folks out, but there is nothing wrong with prioritizing health and safety.

biguglystick Mar 04, 2020 11:31 AM
Public Health Responds to Coronavirus and Cruise Ship Questions

Wow. Thanks for helping local workers to have a smaller paycheck this week! DON'T STOP going to restaurants! This is stupid and alarmist. Our local waiters and waitresses depend on customers to make a living. COME ON. Don't be that person.


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