A woman who tested positive for COVID-19 aboard a Carnival cruise ship amid an outbreak died earlier this month, testing the new regulations facing the cruise industry as ships resume sailing.
The New York Times and NBC News report that the passenger was one of 27 people who contracted the virus aboard the Carnival Vista cruise ship during a trip to the Caribbean in late July and early August. The other 26 people who contracted the virus were crew members.
NBC News reports that the fatality is the first cruise-linked COVID-19 death since ships resumed sailing out of the U.S. in June.
The female passenger, who was traveling with her family, tested positive after experiencing respiratory complications. When the ship arrived in Belize four days into the eight-day voyage, she was admitted to a hospital and placed on a ventilator.
The passenger was later evacuated to Tulsa, Oklahoma, for further treatment. However, the Times reports that the passenger died on Aug. 14, about two weeks after the ship departed from the U.S.
The Times reports the passenger was 77 years old. It's unclear if she was vaccinated.
The Vista sailed out of Galveston, Texas — a state that prohibits businesses from requiring proof of vaccination. However, 96% of the passengers aboard the ship were reportedly vaccinated, according to a statement from the Belize tourism board.
In a statement, Carnival Cruises claimed that it was "unlikely" that the guest contracted the virus on the ship.
"We are very sorry to hear about the death of a guest who sailed on Carnival Vista," Carnival said in a statement. "...The guest almost certainly did not contract COVID on our ship, and she was assisted with expert medical care on board and was ultimately evacuated from Belize after we provided a resource to her family. We have continued to provide support to her family and are not going to add to their sadness by commenting further."
The Times notes that Carnival did not test vaccinated passengers for COVID-19 before they boarded the ship. NBC News reports that beginning Saturday, Carnival will require vaccinated passengers to present proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of embarkment.
On Aug. 7, Carnival updated its policy to require all passengers to wear masks while indoors and to ban smoking from onboard casinos.
"We have always required vaccinations. From our restart in July, 95+% guests have been vaccinated. We meet the definition of a vaccinated cruise," a Carnival spokesperson told NBC News. "And we added the testing requirement on July 28. (August) 28 is when new guidelines for the Bahamas go into effect."
On Aug. 20, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines recommending that those who are at increased risk for severe illness avoid cruise ship travel, regardless of their vaccination status.