OAKLAND – The United States Department of Health and Human Services and California Health and Human Services Agency today announced additional steps underway to protect the City of Oakland, County of Alameda, port workers and surrounding communities from the spread of COVID-19.
It was announced earlier today
that the Grand Princess Cruise ship will dock in the Port of Oakland at approximately noon and then systematically begin disembarking passengers. Federal, state and local staff have been working around the clock to prepare a seamless logistical operation to move individuals aboard the ship in a manner that is safe, medically sound and expeditious. No City of Oakland employees or personnel will be inside the perimeter during the operation.
At a press conference Sunday
in Oakland alongside doctors, nurses, public health professionals emergency responders and community leaders including Mayor Libby Schaaf and Assemblymember Rob Bonta, Governor Gavin Newsom emphasized the importance of protecting the surrounding communities during this mission.
“All levels of government are working together in a deeply collaborative way in this effort. I want folks to know we’re doing everything in our power, 24/7, to secure the safety and health of those stranded off our coast and to make sure that we do it in a way that does justice to others in our community,” said Governor Newsom.
“I have three priorities right now. First and foremost is to ensure the safety and health of our community and that starts with our port workers as well as the residents who live closest to the Port of Oakland. Second, I want to ensure that our public and our community keeps constantly informed with detailed information about this operation as well as about the COVID-19 virus in general. We recognize that this is a time that we must be guided by facts and not fears and our public deserves to know exactly what is going on. Third, and finally, it is our duty to help these people, the friends and families aboard this ship who are sitting in fear and uncertainty,” said Mayor Libby Schaaf.
Designed to Minimize Local Exposure
This operation is taking place under the auspices of the federal Department of Health and Human Services’ Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. The virus transmits person-to-person when people are in close proximity, that is less than six feet apart. Based on their understanding of the nature and transmission of the COVID-19 virus, the federal government has aligned appropriate levels of protection for all participants of the Grand Princess disembarkation, including appropriate social distancing and personnel protective equipment given their level of participation.
The federal Department of Health and Human Services’ work to prepare the site includes:
- Fencing off the nearly 11-acre portion of the Port of Oakland, with federal security on the perimeter.
- Setting up temporary tents to conduct medical screening of all cruise passengers disembarking from the ship, which will be conducted by medically trained federal personnel.
- Providing personal protective equipment (PPE) to all personnel interacting with passengers, and to the port workers who will handle the off-loading of passenger baggage.
As passengers disembark the ship, they will be screened by a federal Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMAT) who will focus first on helping those individuals who require immediate emergency medical care, not necessarily related to COVID-19 exposure.
These DMAT’s will be staffed with medical professionals and para-professionals with extensive experience. DMAT team members include advanced clinicians Medical Doctors, nurse practitioners/physician assistants, medical officers, registered nurses, respiratory therapists and paramedics.
As part of the risk assessment and public health management of these passengers, the DMAT personnel will conduct interviews and assess these individuals for fever or other symptoms of COVID-19.
No City of Oakland employees or personnel will be inside the perimeter during the operation.
The personnel participating in the DMAT will be outfitted with extensive personal protective equipment (PPE), including a gown, gloves, eye protection (e.g., goggles, a disposable face shield that covers the front and sides of the face), and respiratory protection with NIOSH-approved N95 filtering facepiece respirator or higher. Workers handling baggage will use surgical masks as well as gloves to protect them against low-risk exposure through luggage contact, and will have no direct contact with crew or passengers.
Individuals will be led off the ship in smaller groups to allow for appropriate social distancing: anyone who is symptomatic with cough, fever or other respiratory issues will be fitted with a surgical mask and disembarked via a separate gangway, then moved to a separate area to receive appropriate medical attention and separation from others. They will not be transported to medical care with healthy passengers; they will remain isolated.
Following screening, California residents who do not require acute care will be transported to a federally run isolation facility within California for further testing and isolation for the 14-day quarantine period, while non-Californians will be transported by the federal government via charted plane to facilities in other states.
These individuals will be transported by chartered bus or plane, with individuals working on the bus provided clinically appropriate personal protective equipment. Individual passengers will be placed on the bus with face masks and appropriate distancing practices to ensure that we keep people safe given the knowledge we have about COVID-19 spread.
Foreign nationals will be bused to North Field, a remote part of the Oakland International Airport, which is inaccessible to commercial passengers, and put on a charter flight home by persons with appropriate personal protective equipment.
Protecting the Community
At no time will local residents come into contact with passengers disembarking the ship.
Following the completion of the mission, the Port of Oakland site will be fully remediated and decontaminated by immediately removing temporary structures and pressure washing the entire site with a bleach solution to disinfect it.