An elderly couple stuck on a coronavirus-infected cruise ship in the Mediterranean are back in Florida now, but have been "prisoners" in their West Palm Beach home for two weeks while awaiting their COVID-19 test results.
Marin Pavkovic, 84, and his wife, Angela, 79, were passengers on the Costa Luminosa, which had a coronavirus outbreak days after leaving Fort Lauderdale on March 5 for a trans-Atlantic trip to Venice, Italy.
An elderly couple from Fort Pierce were on the ship too, but their daughter asked that they remain anonymous and declined to talk about their experience.
Before docking March 19 in Marseille, France, 75 passengers reportedly had COVID-19 symptoms or had been in contact with people who did, according to a report by the Reuters news agency.
Confined to their cabin and not knowing when or how they would get off the 1,400-passenger ship was nerve-wracking, Marin Pavkovic said; but things got worse when they got off the ship and began a harrowing journey home.
"At Marseille, they let all the American citizens and the Canadians off, around 400 of us," Pavkovic said. "There were police cars everywhere. They checked us, physicals, one by one. It took several hours. Then they put us on buses, maybe 10 to 15 buses, and took us to the airplane."
Several dozen French passengers also were allowed off the boat. French media later reported 36 tested positive for COVID-19.
From sea to air
The buses sat on the tarmac for five hours before passengers boarded an overnight flight to Atlanta.
During the flight, U.S. health officials learned three of the passengers had tested positive for coronavirus back in Marseilles.
"A lot of people on the plane were sick;" Pavkovic said. "Maybe not sick from the virus, but sick. I'm 85, and a lot of people were around my age. Everybody looked sick, even if they weren't sick."
Passengers were not given meals, only juice and snacks during the flight or during the several hours after the plane landed at 6:30 a.m. March 20 in Atlanta and sat on the tarmac.
"No water, no food and it got so hot," Angela Pavkovic said.
Passenger Kelea Edgar Nevis sent a series of texts to several news organizations, including the New York Times:
7:58 a.m.: Another HOUR. We're stuffed in here like sardines and it's hot.
8:09 a.m.: People are starving.
9:20 a.m.: Everyone is up in arms.
At 9:46 a.m., Nevis reported the plane had run out of toilet paper and tissues and passengers had been without food "since lunch yesterday, French time."
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Positive test results
The positive test results on passengers in Marseille led to more testing.
"In Atlanta, it was another mess, getting checked out again by the health department," Pavkovic said. "There was no air conditioning. More hours waiting."
Back in West Palm Beach, Pavkovic said he and his wife were tested again March 21 at the JFK Medical Center.
"They said we would have test results in less than seven days," Pavkovic said. "It's been exactly 14 days (on April 3), and no results. I keep calling, several times a day. They say, 'It's pending. Call tomorrow.' "
Fever is a common symptom of coronavirus, and the Pavkovics have been checking their temperatures twice a day.
"We are lucky," Pavkovic said. "Every day it's normal. But this is not normal. We are prisoners in our own home. Not even one hour have we gone out."
The Pavkovics were scheduled to go to a drive-through testing site April 6.
"I don't know what happened to the results of the first test," Pavkovic said. "No one will tell us. Maybe they'll tell us when we get these new tests."
Costa Crociere Group, an Italian company that's part of the Carnival Corp., is the the parent company of the Costa and AIDA cruise lines.
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Tyler Treadway is an environment reporter who specializes in issues facing the Indian River Lagoon. Support his work on TCPalm.com. Contact him at 772-221-4219 and email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Treasure Coast Newspapers: Coronavirus: West Palm Beach couple talks about Costa Luminosa cruise