GALVESTON

Royal Caribbean's cruise ship Liberty of the Seas returned Wednesday to Galveston after spending two weeks at anchor off the Texas coast because two crew members had tested positive for COVID-19.

The ship arrived in the port about 11:30 a.m., officials said. It was last in Galveston on March 30.

Since then, there have been no public updates about the number of infections aboard the ship or the status of the crew members who previously tested positive.

When the ship returned on Wednesday, officials planned to let one person off the ship for a "non-emergency medical appointment unrelated to COVID-19," the U.S. Coast Guard said in a statement. 

The Galveston County Health District also arranged for 10 people aboard the ship to be tested for COVID-19 because they have flu-like symptoms, the district said.

Few other details about the status of people on the ship have been disclosed. 

Social media posts by people claiming to be on the ship say crew members are isolated in individual staterooms in effort to prevent the virus' spread aboard the vessel.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is tracking the number of coronavirus cases aboard U.S. cruise ships, did not respond to a request for comment about the number of cases aboard the Liberty of the Seas. Royal Caribbean did not respond to a request for comment.

Agencies controlling access to local waters and facilities — including the Coast Guard, the CDC, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Port of Galveston — began allowing groups of crew members to debark ships and be transported to New Orleans so they could fly back to their home countries.

The CDC last week directed cruise companies to reduce the number of crew members to only the people needed to operate the ships. Cruise companies such as Royal Caribbean have been urged to find ways to remove healthy crew members from their ships to prevent larger outbreaks that could burden medical facilities on land.

Cruise ships carry between 1,000 and 1,200 crew members at a time, but the operational staff could be reduced to 100 or 200, officials said.

Last week, the CDC announced there were 114 vessels carrying more than 93,000 crew either in or near U.S. ports. 

The Liberty of the Seas now will rejoin a rotation of six cruise ships using the Port of Galveston to resupply as they wait out the end of the coronavirus pandemic and a return to business, officials said.

Ships berthing in Galveston are Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas, Enchantment of the Seas and Majesty of the Seas and Carnival Cruise Line's Freedom, Dream and Vista.

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; john.ferguson@galvnews.com or on Twitter @johnwferguson.

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