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Virginia woman with breast cancer on cruise ship with 21 coronavirus cases

'We get very, very minimal information'
Posted at 1:51 PM, Mar 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-09 13:51:41-04

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- A Chesterfield County couple on board the Grand Princess cruise ship, which is in a holding pattern off the coast of San Francisco, said they are getting "very minimal information" about what happens next.

Judy and David McClelland, who have been married for 45 years, decided to continue on with their plans for the cruise after Judy's breast cancer returned.

The trip was going relatively smoothly until some people on the ship got sick. Thursday after lunch the cruise took a major turn when the couple said the captain made an announcement.

"We were immediately to go to our cabin and not come out," Judy McClelland said.

Since then at least 21 people on the ship, which is carrying more than 3,500 from 54 countries, have tested positive for COVID-19.

Judy’s cancer treatment began a few weeks ago when she had an IV chemo infusion. The timing of the cruise aligned perfectly with her next treatment.

"I have a chemo infusion scheduled for tomorrow,” Judy said. “I have Stage IV metastatic breast cancer and the chemo is keeping it stable. They can't cure it, but they can treat it."

However, Judy will not be able to keep that appointment since the couple will not be returning to Virginia when the ship finally gets to port.

“We're going to go to some military base in either Texas or Georgia," Judy explained.

Judy and David McClelland
Judy and David McClelland

The couple’s daughters, Meghan and Sarah, are concerned about their mother’s health.

That is because Judy is considered high risk sine she will miss her chemotherapy and likely has a compromised immune system to potentially fight off COVID-19.

"One of the concerns is, if she doesn't continue with the schedule treatment, that that progression is going to continue," Meghan said.

The fact that the couple has been confined in their cabin for the last three days has been a saving grace.

"I'm a little claustrophobic and if I didn't have that big door and that balcony and the fresh air, I would be climbing the walls," Judy McClelland said.

The McClellands said one of their biggest concerns while the ship has been idling off the coast is what happens next.

"We get very, very minimal information,” Judy said.

Virus Outbreak California<div class="Figure-credit" itemprop="author">Noah Berger/AP
Carrying multiple people who have tested positive for COVID-19, the Grand Princess maintains a holding pattern about 30 miles off the coast of San Francisco, Sunday, March 8, 2020. The cruise ship is scheduled to dock at the Port of Oakland on Monday. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

As the Grand Princess is expected to dock in Oakland Monday, the couple’s next destination remains an unknown.

However, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said those who need acute medical care or hospitalization will come off first in a process that could take up to three days.

Newsom and the mayor of Oakland sought to reassure the public that none of the passengers from a ship with at least 21 cases of the new coronavirus will be released into the public before undergoing a 14-day quarantine.

Since the couple timed their cruise to be back from for Monday’s chemo treatment, they are now trying to figure out where and how long they'll be in quarantine and if there is any way Judy can get the IV treatment.

Coronavirus cases swell in US

The number of U.S. coronavirus cases swelled to 541, with cases in about half of the states. Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska and Pennsylvania also recently reported their first cases.

The death toll from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, rose to 21 Sunday.

Eighteen people in Washington state, two people in Florida and one person in California have died.

Worldwide, the virus has infected more than 109,800 people and killed over 3,800, with the vast majority of them in China. Most cases have been mild, and more than half of those infected have recovered.