Jeremy Malone saw 30 to 40 crew members with buckets of disinfectant who were lined up on along his hallway as they prepared to clean the ship Courtesy Jeremy Malone(NEW YORK) — There is “utter panic” on the Carnival cruise ship where a Dallas hospital employee who helped care for an Ebola patient who died has been put in quarantine. The ship is now being sent back to Texas after being turned away from both Belize and Mexico, one of the passengers said.
“People are scared,” passenger Jon Malone told ABC News as the Carnival Magic cruise ship was waiting miles off shore from Cozumel, Mexico. “I’ve seen people crying.”
The chaos started Friday morning when there was an announcement on the ship’s intercom saying “that someone who worked in the lab who handled the person in Dallas’ blood was on the ship,” Jon’s brother and fellow passenger Jeremy Malone told ABC. The cruise line said the woman is in isolation on board the ship.
“You’re using the same buffet line as someone else, the same waiters, the folks that clean the state rooms. If someone was cleaning their state room and cleaned yours right after, the exposure that you have there to elevators…” he said. “It’s very tight quarters and a lot of interaction. It’s really difficult to control any type of virus that’s on a cruise ship. It’s like a floating petri dish. It spreads very rapidly.”
Though the cruise line has not released the name of the passenger or her location, the Malones fear that her room may be on their floor because when Jeremy walked outside his room Friday morning, he saw a group of 30 to 40 workers gathered with buckets of what looked like cleaning chemicals.
“Some of them had masks on,” Jon Malone said.
“They had a pink liquid in clear spray bottles and they had little wagons that had grey containers — like mop buckets — filled with chemicals,” he said. “They’re cleaning elevators. I’ve seen people with pink liquid cleaning the bar area and the handrails.”
The workers wouldn’t answer questions about what room or floor the hospital employee was staying on, but Jeremy said that he fears that she was on the 11th floor because the workers “kind of looked at each other and smiled. They didn’t know what to say.”
The first signs of trouble emerged Thursday night when they did not leave Belize at 6 p.m. as intended to make their way to Cozumel.
“The ship wasn’t going anywhere. We were parked maybe 10 miles from the shore, so that was unusual,” Jeremy Malone said. “Several hours go by and we still haven’t moved and they hadn’t made any announcements or anything.”
The first word they received came while attending a comedy show on board when an employee indicated that a passenger was ill and needed to be taken off the ship, but made no mention of Ebola.
Carnival released a statement Friday confirming the presence of a lab supervisor from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital on board the ship, but said that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention deemed the woman “low risk.”
“At no point in time has the individual exhibited any symptoms or signs of infection and it has been 19 days since she was in the lab with the testing samples,” the statement said. The incubation period for Ebola is believed to be two to 21 days.
Neither Carnival nor any government officials from Belize, Mexico or the United States have confirmed the reported change of travel plans, but the Malones shared a letter that they received from Carnival Friday morning that the ship planned to arrive in Cozumel at 10 a.m. and depart at 6 p.m.
Jeremy Malone said the captain and cruise director have subsequently made another announcement saying they are headed back to Galveston, Texas.
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio