At least 17 people have tested positive for COVID-19 — including one probable case of the omicron variant — on a cruise ship that disembarked in New Orleans over the weekend.
Norwegian Cruise Lines confirmed 10 cases among its passengers and crew members on Saturday, and then seven more on Sunday, according to the Louisiana Department of Health. The cruise line confirmed in a statement that it had identified a “handful” of cases onboard the Norwegian Breakaway, and said all of them are asymptomatic.
“One of those cases, which was a South African crew member who was in isolation for the entirety of the cruise, is suspected to have the COVID-19 Omicron variant,” a Norwegian Cruise Lines spokesperson said in an email to NPR.
State health officials had previously said that the crew member with the probable omicron case was not a Louisiana resident and did not leave the ship.
There were more than 3,200 people on board, according to the state health department. The ship departed from New Orleans on Nov. 28 and stopped in Belize, Honduras and Mexico before disembarking on Sunday.
Both Norwegian Cruise Lines and the Port of New Orleans said the cruise line requires all guests and crew members to be fully vaccinated, with on-site testing and proof of vaccination needed in order for people to board.
The company says it has implemented quarantine, isolation and contact tracing protocols for the identified cases, and is testing everyone on board before they disembark.
People who test positive will either travel by personal vehicle directly to their personal residence, or self-isolate in accommodations provided by the company.
“We take this matter extremely seriously and will continue to work closely with the CDC, the office of Governor John Bel Edwards, the Louisiana Department of Health as well as the city and port of New Orleans,” it said.
The company added that there are currently no changes to scheduled future sailings on the Norwegian Breakaway. It told NPR that it’s giving all guests sailing the Dec. 5 voyage an opportunity to cancel without penalty, “in an abundance of caution and in compliance with CDC requirements.”
Separately, Louisiana also confirmed its first case of the omicron variant on Sunday, which officials stressed was unrelated to the cruise.
This story originally appeared on the Morning Edition live blog.