Cargo ship quarantined in Milwaukee Harbor will dock Monday

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The quarantined cargo ship Presque Isle, anchored outside Milwaukee, will dock Monday.

That will allow the crew to enter isolation and the company to disinfect the ship.

This is the first COVID-19 outbreak among the 46 ships that belong to the Lake Carriers' Association.

Sailors come from all across the country to crew the ships, and COVID had been out of control for the last year.

"The credit really goes to the captains, the chief engineers and the cooks on board these vessels who've been taking it very seriously," said Lake Carriers' Association Communications Director Eric Peace.

Peace said the Presque Isle was making one of her first runs in the Great Lakes shipping season when COVID struck.

"We have plans in place at certain strategic ports around the Great Lakes, we've already made arrangements with the port authorities, we've talked with local hospitals," said Peace.

Two crew members were sent to the hospital in Gary, Indiana, but the ship couldn't tie up a dock there. So it sailed to Milwaukee.

"Disinfect the ship with a cleaner, bring a new crew on board to continue sailing the ship," said Peace.

The crew were screened before setting sail, but COVID just needs one slip.

"The virus is so good at transmitting in these environments, if there's a breakdown in the mitigation strategy, it's not that hard to have outbreaks in these environments," said UW Health Chief Quality Officer Jeff Pothof.

He said a ship is a terrible place for an infectious disease because there's nowhere to hide.

"The smaller the space, the less the airflow, the more likely the virus can spread freely," said Pothof.

Contact tracing is underway to find the source of the infections, but with sailors coming from across the country, Peace said the odds were against them.

"If you put it in the reality of the rest of our country, who knows," said Peace.

Once the crew clears their quarantine period, their company will make travel arrangements to send them home or put them on another ship.


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