The US government and Carnival Corporation are in talks for ships in the company’s 105-ship fleet to be used as floating hospitals, accommodation or quarantine sites, according to President Donald Trump.
During a press conference at the White House on Thursday, Trump said that Carnival Corporation Chairman Micky Arison told him Carnival’s cruise ships will be available if the government should need them during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I spoke with Micky Arison of Carnival Cruise Lines and he is going to make ships available,” Trump said. “So in addition to the big medical ships you have coming, if we should need ships with lots of rooms, they will be docked in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, different places.”
Carnival Corporation owns nine brands with approximately 105 ships across its fleet.
FEMA in the United States (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) has used cruise ships several times in past disaster, such as in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy for temporary housing.
While Trump didn’t elaborate on how the vessels will be used, or how many, a cruise ship is a versatile asset in a disaster scenario, able to provide temporary housing for a quarantine facility, or serve as housing for medical or government workers, or even as sites for surge hospital capacity.
Ships also provide a secure environment. Authorities would know who is on the ship at any time, and can restrict access and movements relatively easily, compared to a land-based site.
The US Navy’s two hospital ships USNS Mercy and USNS Comfort are being deployed on the West Coast, and in New York City respectively. Their planned use provides a clue as to how Carnival Corps cruise ships might be used.
When Trump announced the deployments for the hospital ships Wednesday, he said they would be used for regular hospital services, rather than Coronavirus cases, according to a statement from the US Navy.
David Lhowe, an orthopedic surgeon who spent a month treating patients aboard USNS Comfort in the wake of the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia, told Wired that was a good call as the ship’s weren’t a suitable option for trying to contain a contagious virus due to the close quarters.
The inability of Coronavirus to be contained aboard a ship was demonstrated last month aboard Diamond Princess in Japan when more than 700 passengers ultimately contracted the virus while in quarantine.
When it comes to non-Covid cases though, cruise ships can be very useful to free up hospital beds on land.
If needed, cruise ships are capable of being quickly provisioned to serve as hospitals with up to 1,000 hospital rooms that can treat patients suffering from less critical, non-COVID-19 conditions.
These temporary cruise ship hospital rooms can be quickly converted to install and connect remote patient monitoring devices over the ship’s high-speed network – providing cardiac, respiratory, oxygen saturation and video monitoring capabilities.
The rooms also have bathroom facilities, private balconies with access to sun and fresh air, as well as isolation capabilities, as needed.
Additionally, cruise ships being used as temporary hospital facilities to treat non-COVID-19 patients would have the ability to provide up to seven intensive care units (ICUs) in the ship’s medical center equipped with central cardiac monitoring, ventilators and other key medical devices and capabilities, according to Carnival.