As Coronavirus-Hit Ship Docks in Bay Area, America’s Tech Hub Enters ‘Lockdown’

A growing number of Bay Area companies are enacting work-from-home policies.

Passengers look out from aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship, operated by Princess Cruises, as it maintains a holding pattern about 25 miles off the coast of San Francisco, California on March 8, 2020. JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images

A cruise ship with more than 3,500 people aboard, including at least 21 tested positive for the new coronavirus Covid-19, is about to dock in California on Monday after wandering at sea for almost a week, posing an increased risk to the American public of contacting the deadly virus.

The vessel, a Grand Princess ship operated by Princess Cruises, is scheduled for a multi-day disembarking at a port in Oakland. While federal and local authorities have flights and buses ready at the first point of contact to take passengers directly to a 14-day quarantine, the imminent risk of a coronavirus pandemic posed by the ship has encouraged more tech companies in the Bay Area to send their employees to work from home.

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Last week, Amazon and Microsoft urged the majority of its staff to work from home after the number of coronavirus cases suddenly jumped in the Seattle area. Facebook, Google, Twitter and smaller tech companies with offices in Washington State and elsewhere on the West Coast quickly followed the suit. And on Sunday, Apple enacted a work from home policy as well.

Even the U.S. Congress is preparing for an organization-wide remote working experiment. According to an internal memo seen by Fox News, the House Administration Committee will launch a center Monday to coordinate computers and phones into a telecommuting system in case government staffers need to work from home.

However, not everyone can afford to protect themselves from the coronavirus while keeping their jobs at the same time. According to the Labor Department data, more than 70 percent of American workers don’t have the option to work remotely. Most of them work in low-paying service positions that also often lack health insurance.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said Sunday that about 1,000 California residents on the Grand Princess ship will be taken directly to the Travis Air Force Base and Miramar Naval Air Station once they disembark for a mandatory quarantine. Meanwhile, the State Department was arranging repatriation for several hundred foreign passengers on the ship.

“All of us at Princess Cruises offer our sincere gratitude and appreciation to the federal, state and local authorities who are coordinating, collaborating and activating resources and personnel in support of this response to provide care and attend to the health and well-being of our guests and crew,” Jan Swartz, president of Princess Cruises, said in a statement on Sunday.

As Coronavirus-Hit Ship Docks in Bay Area, America’s Tech Hub Enters ‘Lockdown’