A passenger aboard a Carnival Cruise Line ship that left from Galveston, Texas, in late July has died.
Marilyn Tackett, a 77-year-old woman from Oklahoma, died this month after contracting the coronavirus. She was among the 27 reported positive cases aboard the Carnival Vista, one of the highest number of publicly recorded cases on a ship sailing from the United States since cruises restarted this summer, The Washington Post reported.
All 27 people who tested positive were vaccinated, according to health authorities in Belize, one of the ship’s destinations.
Passengers and crew on multiple ships leaving the U.S. or Caribbean have tested positive for the virus since June, but most cases have been mild or asymptomatic. Cruise lines are sailing with the vast majority of passengers vaccinated in an effort to avoid the outbreaks and deaths that grounded the industry early last year.
Carnival requires anyone over 12 on its ships to be vaccinated, with extremely limited exemptions available for those who have medical conditions that don’t allow for inoculation. The cruise line — as well as some competitors — tightened its protocols in recent days as more destinations put vaccine requirements in place for passengers.
The cruise operator added a requirement on Aug. 14 — the day Tackett died — that even vaccinated passengers would have to show proof of a negative coronavirus test taken within three days of boarding. Earlier this month, Carnival started mandating masks for all passengers in certain crowded indoor areas like elevators, shops, the casino and entertainment venues.
Those newer measures were not in place yet when Tackett boarded Carnival Vista on July 31. She was excited to take her first trip abroad when she set sail, according to a GoFundMe page created by one of her grandchildren. But during the trip, she tested positive for COVID-19 and had to be placed on a ventilator in Belize, her family said. The other 26 people who tested positive on the ship were crew members who were in isolation on board.
She was transported back to Tulsa on Aug. 6 and received treatment until her death just eight days later, according to the crowdfunding page.
“Memaw fought as long as she could,” the family said in a statement. “To know she’s reunited with lost loved ones and that she’s basking in The Lord’s presence now is a huge comfort.”
Tackett’s family did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Carnival Cruise Line told The Washington Post in a statement that the company was sad to hear about Tackett’s death, but also said she “almost certainly did not contract COVID on our ship.”
“We have continued to provide support to her family and are not going to add to their sadness by commenting further,” the statement said.
Cruise executives acknowledge the difficulty of keeping the virus off ships, but emphasize that they have put measures into place to keep infections from spreading throughout the ship. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 23 ships carrying passengers in the U.S. — or planning to come to the U.S. — had reported COVID cases in the past seven days as of Friday.
“Unfortunately, no venue on land or at sea is COVID-free right now, but we are committed to protecting the health and safety of our guests, crew and the communities we visit and have not hesitated to act quickly and go beyond existing public health guidelines,” Carnival said in its statement.