Tug vessel 'Presque Isle' and crew to quarantine at Port Milwaukee due to COVID-19 outbreak

NOW: Tug vessel ’Presque Isle’ and crew to quarantine at Port Milwaukee due to COVID-19 outbreak

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- There is a coordinated effort underway to help a vessel in distress after a number of its crew members tested positive for COVID-19. 

The rush is on the find appropriate quarantine quarters for seven crew members still out on the water. The Port Milwaukee took the initial call and called for help from Milwaukee's Health Department, CDC and the Coast Guard. 

The big red barge is one of the largest of its kind in the Great Lakes. Wednesday, March 31, the Presque Isle pulled in to the Port of Gary to drop a load of iron ore with about 22 on board. Two of its mariners were so ill they had to be hospitalized. Twenty-four hours later, the 1,000-foot articulated tug-barge vessel had seven more COVID cases and needed safe harbor. 

It was a plea for help that we were happy to answer," said Adam Tindall-Schlicht, Port of Milwaukee Director.

The vessel will anchor in open water for the next several days as a thorough cleaning and crew exchange are planned. 

"When it’s time for her to come an on-land docking for that crew exchange to take place she will come under the Hoan Bridge and actually dock on the northwest corner of Jones Island," said Tindall-Schlicht.

How long the freighter stays depends on how long it takes to get it disinfected. 

“Any day lost does impact our ability to move cargo and we’ll continue to try to make up for that best we can," said Eric Peace, Lake Carriers Association Director of Operations and Communications.

This is the first reported case of COVID on one of the 46 vessels belonging to the Lake Carriers' Association, after strict guidelines were enacted. 

“Those preventative measures were put in place back in March of 2020 and they were pretty significant including temperature checks," said Peace.

The Presque Isle will get closer to shore in the coming days. 

"If you are out taking a walk, I know tomorrow’s going to be quite lovely, if you see a vessel in Milwaukee harbor that’s anchored, we’re asking for thoughts and prayers for the sailors onboard to make sure that they remain healthy for Easter weekend," said Tindall-Schlicht.

With an abundance of caution, healthy ship members will also quarantine for 14 days. 

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