GALVESTON

Two crew members from Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas cruise ship have tested positive for COVID-19, Port of Galveston officials confirmed Monday.

One of those crew members has been hospitalized and the other was still quarantined aboard the ship, along with about 1,250 other crew members, as of Monday evening, officials said.

The Liberty of the Seas is one of four nearly empty cruise ships that have been rotating out of the Port of Galveston over the past two weeks. The ship left the port Monday and was moored at an anchorage point off the Texas coast, Port of Galveston Director Rodger Rees said.

The ships need to move occasionally to resupply and keep their engines and other equipment working properly, he said, explaining that crew members remain aboard while the ships are berthed.

Liberty of the Seas is the second Galveston-based cruise ship to be connected to a case of COVID-19. Last week, Carnival Cruise Line informed passengers that one of the crew members of the Carnival Freedom had tested positive for COVID-19 and urged them to quarantine themselves because of their potential exposure.

It was unclear Monday whether Royal Caribbean was similarly notifying passengers who were on the Liberty of the Seas during its most recent voyage March 8. The ship returned to port from that voyage March 15.

In a statement to The Daily News, a Royal Caribbean spokesman said the situation aboard the Liberty of the Seas was "fluid."

"The health and well-being of our crew is our foremost priority," Jonathan Fishman said. "Crew members who exhibited symptoms will receive medical care in accordance with our health and safety protocols.

"We are in continuous contact with multiple government authorities and public health officials, and we appreciate their support and guidance in protecting everyone’s health and safety."

Members of the Wharves Board of Trustees were informed about the first diagnosed case Sunday, officials said. Trustees were told that at least 30 crew members were allowed off the ship and driven to an airport, officials said.

Those crew members were U.S. citizens, Rees said on Monday. They were screened for COVID-19 symptoms before they were allowed off the ship and then driven directly to a local airport, Rees said.

The Galveston County Health District has been informed about the infection aboard the cruise ship, a spokeswoman said.

The U.S. Coast Guard is one of the lead agencies in charge of monitoring and screening people on ships coming into the port for COVID-19 symptoms, Rees said. The Coast Guard responded to The Daily News about the cruise ship on Monday evening. 

"The Coast Guard is using our statutory authorities to direct vessel movement in support of CDC operations," Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Johanna Strickland said. "We are working closely with the CDC to ensure that reports of any sick or ill persons are handled in the most expedient manner and to determine the best course of action to deal with vessels who have crew and/or passengers who are displaying symptoms of COVID-19. "

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

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