A cruise ship which has been floating at sea carrying passengers with suspected coronavirus after it was turned away from South American ports has finally been given permission to dock in Florida.
The Zaandam and sister ship the Rotterdam, which was sent to help it, were given the green light to disembark people at Port Everglades after days of negotiation with local officials.
Passengers have not been able to step on dry land for almost three weeks.
Four elderly people died on the Zaandam – including a British man – and at least two from COVID-19 – according to William Burke, chief maritime officer for Carnival Corp., which owns the ships.
Earlier this week, he said nine people had tested positive for the virus.
There were 442 guests and 603 crew on the Zaandam, and 808 guests and 583 crew on the Rotterdam.
An elderly British couple aboard the Zaandam previously issued a desperate plea to the United States to allow the vessel to dock.
Tony and Jennie Wills from Earls Barton in Northamptonshire, spoke out after the state’s governor, Ron DeSantis, signalled he did not want the vessel’s passengers and crew dumped on his doorstep.
“This is a real humanitarian crisis and we appeal, we pray, we implore America, all the governments around the world, please America, please let us land somewhere,” Mrs Wills, 74, said in a video message shared with Sky News.
“Please, please, we just so all want to come home. This is on behalf of absolutely everybody on board the two ships.”
Her husband, 80, had previously said information from the captain and the cruise operator, Holland America Line, had been poor.
Mr Willis added: “We are obviously realising there is a hell of a lot more illness on this boat than we ever realised and we are getting very, very worried. We need to get off.”
Mr DeSantis previously told a news conference: “Just to drop people off at the place where we’re having the highest number of cases right now just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.”
However, speaking at the White House’s daily coronavirus briefing, President Trump said he would ask the governor to allow the ships to dock in Florida, saying: “They’re dying on the ship.
“I’m going to do what’s right. Not only for us, but for humanity.”
Holland America has said 45 passengers who were mildly sick would stay on board until they recovered, but that it needed 10 people to be taken to a Fort Lauderdale hospital for immediate medical care.
Broward County Commissioner, Michael Udine, said the agreement only allowed for fewer than five people to be taken to a hospital.
Mr DeSantis said passengers and crew who have no symptoms would be taken to airports by bus, but would not be allowed inside the terminals, and instead would directly board planes.
“You can’t just release them into the general public if they have been exposed,” he said.
Holland America has said that guests fit for travel under guidelines from the US Centers for Disease Control would transfer “straight from the ship to flights for onward travel home, the majority on charter flights”.
In a statement, it said: “Out of an abundance of caution, these guests will be transported in coaches that will be sanitized, with limited person-to-person contact and while wearing masks.”
Guests have not left the ship since 14 March, and have self-isolated in their cabins since 22 March.
The Zaandam set sail from Buenos Aires on 7 March, and was originally scheduled to end the first leg of the voyage at San Antonio, Chile, on 21 March, before departing again for Fort Lauderdale.
The cruise was stranded off the coast of Panama after it was not allowed to dock in Chile and other ports along its path.
Larry Kramer: Playwright, author and AIDS activist dies aged 84 | World News
Playwright and author Larry Kramer, who was known for his AIDS activism from early on in the epidemic, has died aged 84.
Kramer, who co-founded the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) in the early 1980s and later the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power – or ACT UP movement – died in a New York hospital with pneumonia on Wednesday, his close friend and literary executor Will Schwalbe said.
His death was not said to be related to the coronavirus pandemic.
The award-winning writer was known for his 1985 play The Normal Heart, depicting a writer’s battle with society to raise awareness of AIDS – the immunodeficiency disease from the HIV virus that Kramer had himself.
Described as an “angry but compelling indictment of a society as well as a subculture for failing to respond adequately to the tragedy,” by AP drama critic Michael Kuchwara, the revival of the play in 2011 earned it several Tony awards.
A TV movie adaptation in 2014 starring Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons and Julia Roberts, won an Emmy Award for best movie.
Kramer was also nominated for an Academy Award for writing the screen adaptation of DH Lawrence’s novel, Women in Love, for which actress Glenda Jackson won her first Oscar.
The 84-year-old was perhaps best known for his lifetime of advocacy work as a fierce activist for LGBTQ rights and securing medical treatment for those with AIDS.
Larry Kramer’s passing is the saddest news. We have lost a giant of a man who stood up for gay rights like a warrior. His anger was needed at a time when gay men’s deaths to AIDS were being ignored by the American government… (1/3) pic.twitter.com/GRkAkNZrLg
— Elton John (@eltonofficial) May 27, 2020
Journalist Randy Shilts described an article Kramer had written for gay newspapers in the 1980s as “inarguably one of the most influential works of advocacy journalism of the decade” and credited it with “crystallizing the epidemic into a political movement for the gay community.”
In the 1983 article, Kramer had written about the epidemic: “Our continued existence as gay men upon the face of this earth is at stake…Unless we fight for our lives, we shall die.”
Born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in June 1935, Laurence David Kramer went on to study at Yale University and served in the army.
He later worked at the William Morris Agency and for Columbia Pictures.
In 2001, he had a liver transplant due to hepatitis B.
Kramer married his long-time partner, architect David Webster, in 2013, with the couple making their vows while Kramer was recovering from a bowel obstruction surgery in an intensive care unit at hospital.
They had planned the wedding before he was forced to have surgery, but they didn’t let the health emergency stop them.
Coronavirus: ‘She took her last breath in my arms’ – A personal tragedy as US COVID-19 deaths hit 100,000 | US News
In a matter of months, 100,000 lives have been lost to coronavirus in the United States – nearly triple that of any other country.
America never wanted to lead the world this way. The unfathomable milestone is one of this country’s most tragic and indelible.
Each death took away unique experiences and stories: some well told; most unsung.
People have died in every state and from every walk of life.
Leilani Jordan was a 27-year-old supermarket worker who put her heart and soul into her job. Coronavirus only strengthened her resolve to help those in need.
Her mum, Zenobia Shepherd, says her daughter, who loved butterflies, had an inbuilt instinct to help people.
“She said to me, ‘Mommy, nobody is showing up for work. I have to help the senior citizens, the elderlies’.”
Ms Shepherd added: “Many of them can barely walk – leaning over shopping carts. And although (Leilani) had her own disabilities, she would go out of her way to help them to get and find what they needed.
“Because she knew sign language she could even talk to and help those that could not talk. So she loved helping and being needed by others.”
Leilani kept going until the day she could no longer breathe. Unlike the thousands robbed of proper goodbyes, Leilani was in her mother’s arms when she passed away.
“I would do anything in this world if I could have my baby back,” Ms Shepherd said.
“My butterfly is gone. She’s flown away to heaven. I have to wait until my time to go see her.”
She added: “I was there when she went to CCU. She took her last breath in my arms. My hands, my last touch, touching her body, as it was warm… It was her last breath.”
Ms Shepherd is now living on memories of her daughter’s singing, her love of the beach and all things purple.
She has some comfort in Leilani’s support dog and best friend, Angel, who now sleeps at the front door, waiting for Leilani to return.
Ms Shepherd has two young daughters who make a video for their sister each day – telling her how much they love her.
Deaths in America have been disproportionately high in black communities, revealing long standing health and socio-economic disparities.
Ms Shepherd is now focusing her grief on the urgent need for protections for essential workers like her daughter.
“I want to help other people that aren’t being helped,” she said. “The situation is we’ve got to do a better job, a better job of protecting – protecting and keeping them safe.”
After Leilani’s death, she received her daughter’s final paycheck in the post. The amount was a gut punch: $20.63.
“I think that families, people that have certain front line jobs need to get paid more money,” she said. “They need to have bonuses during this time.”
Like every American, Ms Shepherd is desperate for this situation to end: “I wish this whole thing would go away. Just go to space and leave us alone.
“If only (we) could have been ahead of it a little bit. The death toll may not have been so high and growing.”
As the daughter of a military family, Leilani shares her final resting place with fallen heroes in Arlington National Cemetery.
Coronavirus has now claimed more American lives than the Vietnam, Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.
Those lives lost in past battles are marked by the seemingly endless symmetry of white headstones. Ms Shepherd knows that is where she will come on every occasion Leilani loved so much: Christmas and Halloween, and each birthday she would have celebrated with her usual joy.
So much death has largely been unseen. For a nation living in isolation it is perhaps harder to share a collective sense of grief – even harder to tune out of the ongoing political noise of this crisis.
But make no mistake: America is engulfed in tragedy, and with no cure or vaccine, this is not the end.
Historic US space launch that would have been visible from UK aborted | Science & Tech News
An historic US space flight that would have been visible from the UK was aborted shortly before launch due to bad weather.
NASA announced the decision on safety grounds just minutes before lift-off on Wednesday – with the flight now not happening until at least the weekend.
The mission had been planned in conjunction with Elon Musk’s spaceflight company SpaceX – and it would have been the first private involvement in taking astronauts to the International Space Station.
The US Air Force’s 45th Weather Squadron had forecast between a 40% and 60% chance of favourable conditions at the launch site in Florida.
Throughout the day weather conditions became worse, with a tropical storm initially threatening the launch before a tornado warning was issued.
NASA has stringent rules about the conditions in which the Falcon 9 can fly, and said one of these rules was being violated just minutes before the launch.
The earliest the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and the Crew Dragon spacecraft could now launch is this weekend, with potential windows available on both Saturday and Sunday.
Falcon 9 rockets are not allowed to launch for 30 minutes after lightning is observed within 10 nautical miles of the launch pad and flight path.
NASA astronaut Anne McClain praised the SpaceX and NASA teams for “making the tough call” to postpone the mission.
“We all wanted a launch, but keeping our friends safe while we do it is a no-fail mission,” Ms McClain said, adding: “See you again Saturday.”
Although Donald Trump flew down to Florida to watch the launch, it being postponed means that the last president to be present at a NASA launch was Bill Clinton.
Barack Obama had flown to the Kennedy Space Centre for a space shuttle launch in 2010, but that launch was scrubbed due to a technical problem.
He didn’t return for the rescheduled launch a number of weeks later.
It isn’t clear whether Mr Trump will be back in Florida on Saturday.
Just a few miles away from the launchpad at the Kennedy Space Centre there is a Space Mirror Memorial.
It commemorates the 15 NASA astronauts who lost their lives while in service to the agency during a spaceflight.
No names will be added to that memorial due to decisions made today.
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