The California Air National Guard dropped off test kits by helicopter Thursday after learning that the first person to die of the virus in the state previously traveled on the Grand Princess.
Medical officials collected samples for testing from 45 people aboard after some showed symptoms, which were flown to a lab in Richmond, the cruise line said.
The ship must remain at sea as it awaits test results, which are expected Friday, said Mary Ellen Carroll of the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management.
There are more than 3,500 people aboard the Grand Princess — 2,422 guests and 1,111 crew members, Princess Cruises said. They represent 54 nationalities.
The Grand Princess was on a 15-day trip from San Francisco to Hawaii and was scheduled to return Saturday.
Its trip was cut short Wednesday after the California man’s death — the first fatality outside Washington state in an outbreak that’s killed a total of 14 people nationwide.
The unidentified man was 71 and had underlying health conditions, Placer County health officials said. He was likely exposed to the virus on a Grand Princess cruise from San Francisco to Mexico between February 11 and 21.
Shortly after the Grand Princess finished its Mexico trip last month, it started the latest cruise to Hawaii.
Some of those identified for testing included several who were on the Mexico voyage with the victim. At least three passengers from that trip tested positive, including the man who died.
It’s not clear when or where the ship will eventually dock, though San Francisco is a possibility, Carroll said.
No guests will be allowed to disembark until all test results are received, Princess Cruises said in a statement.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency, saying local health officials are working with their federal counterparts to trace people who had contact with the man who died.
Princess Cruises said it has shared relevant data with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help notify state and county health officials, who will follow up with anyone who may have been exposed to coronavirus.
Meanwhile, as the ship awaits test results, the captain asked all guests to practice social distancing, including staying six feet or two meters from others.
“Cruise ships are posing probably one of the biggest challenges that we are seeing in this outbreak,” said Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, infectious diseases director at the University of Alabama.
“We know these cruise ships are essentially … we’ve been calling them incubators, t