The Victoria Clipper docked in the Inner Harbour after its voyage from Seattle on Wednesday, where the COVID-19 outbreak continues to worsen.
But there were not many people getting off — just 64 passengers on a ship that can carry more than 500.
“Bookings have been significantly lower and we’re down in both advanced bookings and people travelling the last couple of weeks,” says Clipper Vacations CEO David Gudgel.
But some visitors decided not to cancel.
“We’d paid for everything before we realized it probably wasn’t smart to come up here,” says Lou-Anne Ringenberg, who was visiting Seattle from Denver.
With dozens of deaths in Washington and hundreds of people infected, the state is taking extreme measures, banning large social and religious gatherings and sporting events in three counties until the end of March.
“This is our moment to put the greatest threat to our existence, our economy, to our health,” Washington Governor Jay Inslee says. “I’m ordering pursuant to my emergency powers, that certain events in King, Snohomish and Pierce county, with more than 250 people, are prohibited by order of the Governor,”
All Seattle Public Schools will also be closed for at least two weeks due to COVID-19 outbreak.
“I truly believe that this outbreak may be one of the most transformative and consequential events that we’ve had in this region and in this country,” Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan says.
More than 1,000 people are now infected in the U.S. and health officials say it’s far more serious than the flu.
“This is a really serious problem that we have to take seriously,” says Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “The flu has a mortality of under one per cent, this has a mortality 10 times that and that’s the reason why I want to emphasize we have to stay ahead of the game in preventing this.”
So will B.C. also ban public gatherings as a preventative measure?
“Right now, nothing is inevitable, the things that we do now can make a difference in our communities and we’re not in the same situation they are,” Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry says. “We’re doing individual risk assessments.”
Back at the Victoria Clipper, steps are also being taken to increase the space between passengers.
“We’re making changes in terminals in order to limit the number of passengers coming through at any time and assembling and we’ll be utilizing some outdoor space and tent areas,” Gudgel says. “The Washington crowd ban doesn’t apply to transportation but our numbers look like we’ll be under 250 for the foreseeable future.”