This story was updated at 4:10 p.m. on Friday, March 20, 2020, with more information.
ATLANTA (AP) — A jet carrying 359 people including hundreds of American and Canadian cruise ship passengers home from France landed at Atlanta's international airport on Friday as emergency responders prepared to screen them for the coronavirus, federal officials said.
Three people on the flight have tested positive for COVID-19 but have no symptoms, while 13 others are sick but haven't been tested, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Friday.
Some passengers complained that there were no medical personnel provided by the cruise company or the U.S. government and that they were not given much food in 24 hours. The company Costa Cruises did not respond to a request for comment.
Jenny Harrell, 51, a wedding photographer from Fredericksburg, Virginia, who was on the flight, described a chaotic scene that included a male passenger with a chronic lung disease who had to be hooked to a ventilator machine because he was in distress, and others fainting seemingly due to low blood sugar. Many flying were coughing and had breathing problems, Harrell said.
"It was a mass triage with absolutely no direction and the crew going 'what should we do now?'" she said.
Additionally, Harrell and others said the passengers only received orange juice and crackers in more than 24 hours — the time it took to disembark in France, fly to Atlanta, and be cleared by officials. Harrell said she called 911 when the plane landed and CDC officials wanted to enter the plane because she demanded the passengers were given food first. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not respond to requests for comment.
Passengers were taken to a hangar for screening to measure their temperatures, Harrell said, but only certain passengers were tested. And some, such as Harrell, were cleared to fly back home to Virginia, where she was told to stay home for 14 days.
Georgia state officials said they asked federal officials to bring commercial buses to the Atlanta airport so troopers could escort some passengers to another quarantine.
For most people, this coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority recover.
The trans-Atlantic cruise ship Costa Luminosa, carrying more than 1,400 people, had been looking for a port after reporting sick passengers on board, and was allowed to dock in Marseille under strict quarantine conditions.
The Fort Lauderdale-based ship from Italian company Costa Cruises, which in turn is owned by Carnival Corp., had been denied permission to disembark its passengers in some Caribbean ports and Spain, after that government decided to close the country's ports to passenger traffic.
Costa Cruises said three passengers who were removed from the ship in the Cayman Islands and Puerto Rico have tested positive for COVID-19, including a 68-year-old man who died last weekend. On Monday, two European passengers who had breathing problems and one who had a fever were taken off and hospitalized during a technical stop in the Canary Islands.
Some of the passengers said they boarded the ship on March 5 in Fort Lauderdale after the company refused to give them a refund and told them it was safe to travel. Three days later, the U.S. State Department issued a warning for U.S. citizens not to travel on cruise ships.
Gomez Licon reported from Miami.
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