Great Lakes shipping vessel stranded off Milwaukee due to COVID outbreak can soon dock

Presque Isle was making one of her 1st runs of Great Lakes shipping season
MILWAUKEE -- A ship quarantined off Milwaukee because of an outbreak of COVID-19 will finally be allowed to dock on Monday.

Eric Peace with the Lake Carriers Association said the Presque Isle was making one of her first runs in the Great Lakes shipping season when COVID struck. Seven crew members fell ill, WDJT reported.

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

Two crew members were sent to a hospital in Gary, but the ship couldn't tie up a dock there. So it sailed to Milwaukee, where it's been quarantined off-shore for the past four days.

After the ship docks on Monday, the crew of 22 will be forced to quarantine for another 14 days.

The ship will also be disinfected with a commercial cleaner and a new crew will be brought on board to continue sailing the ship.

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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," said Dr. Jeff Pothof, UW Health's chief quality officer.

Pothof 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," he said.

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," he said.