Cruise ship passengers under federal coronavirus quarantine say they are lacking food, medical attention and are being housed in unsanitary conditions, contradicting Trump’s claims that getting them off the Grand Princess was a “tremendous success.”
Michelle Saunders and her 83-year-old grandmother, both from Illinois, have been waiting for medical attention and other basics since they were among the 2,000 evacuated from the ship.
At Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Georgia no one came by to check their temperature for nearly two days, Saunders told USA TODAY on Saturday – a standard protocol they were promised to help monitor for infection.
Food was not delivered to their room for more than 12 hours after their arrival, she said. Their room had no towel and one small bar of soap, and she has been told there is no more, despite the constant public health reminders to wash hands.
No efforts are being made to keep the former cruise ship passengers at a safe social distance from each other to avoid spreading the contagious disease either, she said, beyond telling them to wear masks when they leave their rooms.
Sanders said her grandmother has become increasingly scared and has not eaten much.
“It shouldn’t be my job to keep her safe,” Saunders said, breaking into tears. “It should be their job, and they are not doing it.”
On Friday in the Rose Garden, President Donald Trump praised Vice President Mike Pence for the “tremendous success out in Oakland” in coordinating the disembarkment from the Grand Princess, which had identified two passengers and 19 crew infected with the new coronavirus when the ship finally docked on Monday in Oakland, California.
More: 14 passengers left on Grand Princess as others begin quarantine at military bases
Contradictory accounts came not just from Dobbins but from Travis Air Force Base in California and from Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. Many of those quarantined at the three military bases already had spent days stuck in their cruise cabins to avoid the spread of the coronavirus while arrangements were made for their transfer to the bases.
They found a stark contrast between protocols onboard the ship and at the bases. On the ship, they had been restricted to their rooms. But after being carefully guided off the ship, maintaining a wide distance to avoid the possibility of spreading infection, they were tightly crammed into airplane seats, then buses, to take them to the military bases.
Concerns about missed meals, lacking information about coronavirus testing and inadequate medical care were raised during a Saturday afternoon call between quarantined cruise passengers at Dobbins and representatives from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the cruise line.
“I am just concerned for everybody, because we do have a lot of older people in these buildings and they are not being cared for,” said a woman, noting that she was aware of people who had not received adequate amounts of food or missing meals entirely.
A representative for the governor of Montana complained about having difficulty getting information to assist residents of her state who are quarantined. Others raised concerns about travel logistics and lost luggage.
Officials pledged to investigate the problems.
“We thank you for your patience as we try to resolve medication, luggage, linens and room equipment problems,” HHS spokeswoman Cheri Rice told those on the call, acknowledging “many significant logistical challenges.”
The department did not respond to USA TODAY’s request for additional comment, Princess Cruises did not respond either, but during the call cruise line official Jeff Salvatore tried to reassure the former passengers.
“You are not alone in this; we’re all with you,” Salvatore said. “We are doing everything we can to make this basically as calm and pleasing as possible.”
Routine medical care reportedly has been lacking at Dobbins, too. Barb May, 63, from Bloomington, Illinois, said her requests for help refilling a prescription for her husband went nowhere. Ultimately, she found a local pharmacy to deliver it.
“We shouldn’t have to go beg for water. We shouldn’t have to go stand at the fence to get food,” said May, describing a barricade fence separating quarantined passengers from the rest of the base. “We’re probably being treated worse than prisoners right now.”
Late Saturday, Saunders’ grandmother’s temperature finally was checked as a precautionary screening for coronavirus infection. She did not have a fever. But Saunders was still waiting to have hers taken.
In interviews, other passengers recounted additional problems at the three bases.
A passenger taken to Travis Air Force Base in California said she and her two young daughters were given no soap. She listed other concerns: dirty sheets, no heat, a lack of testing for coronavirus and non-working toilets in some rooms, causing people to have to enter the rooms of others when they are supposed to avoid contact with each other.
A Kentucky woman told the Courier Journal, a USA TODAY Network paper, that she felt like a prisoner at a Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, where she had not yet been tested for coronavirus.
More: Kentucky woman aboard Grand Princess says she still hasn’t been tested for coronavirus
Some, though, characterized the quarantine at federal facilities as the least of the ordeals they have experienced since the news broke that an elderly man with coronavirus had died after cruising with Grand Princess on its previous voyage. Some passengers and crew stayed aboard for the second trip.
Now quarantined at Travis, an easy drive from her home in San Jose, California, Donna Kaletta is grateful to be talking walks outside her room, even if she has to wear a mask.
But, Kaletta said, “this is not the vacation I thought I was going to have.”
Additional reporting by Curtis Tate and Chris Woodyard, USA TODAY.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Quarantined cruise passengers say they lack medical basics, even soap