A cruise ship, used as a floating command center, recreational facility, and training ground for the Church of Scientology, has reportedly been quarantined in St. Lucia over concerns that a passenger on board has the measles.
The Hill reports that authorities in St. Lucia have the ship, the “Freewinds,” in port there and have prohibited anyone from disembarking — possibly for three weeks — for fear they may put island residents in danger.
“Because of the risk of potential infection, not just from the confirmed measles case but from other persons who may be on the boat at this time, we made the decision to not allow anyone to disembark,” St. Lucia’s chief medical officer told media in a videoed statement.
The Church of Scientology has refused to confirm to media outlets that their 440-foot, 300-person “floating religious retreat,” the Freewinds is, indeed, the same ship stuck in dock in St. Lucia, but Scientology-focused reporter Tony Ortega says he’s been able to confirm from a handful of social media posts from the Church’s clergy — members of the so-called “Sea Organization” (or “Sea Org”) — that it is the same Freewinds, and that the outbreak started with a passenger.
Update: Freewinds passenger claims measles was brought aboard by UK passenger, not a crew member. Caution, the source is a Scientologist and this may be a “shore story.” https://t.co/BOQflBRPkI #Scientology pic.twitter.com/Xc8OcZnqBd
— Tony Ortega (@TonyOrtega94) May 2, 2019
That Sea Org member says that only one person was infected and that the “outbreak” was contained. NBC News says authorities believe that the infection has spread to others onboard.
Scientology’s Freewinds is a former cruise ship, purchased in the mid-1980s and rechristened as a floating training facility where high level Scientologists — those who have achieved the level of OT7 (or, “operating thetan seven”) — could study to achieve OT8, the highest level of the religion. The cost to reach such a level is reportedly between $800,000 and $2 million, according to former Sea Org members.
The Freewinds also serves as a recreational destination for Scientology bigwigs, including leader David Miscavige, and celebrity mega-Scientologist, Tom Cruise.
The United States is current experiencing once of the worst measles outbreaks in years, since the disease was reported as “eliminated” in the year 2000, according to CNN.
“Overall,” the outlet reports, “there have been 681 measles cases across 22 states this year, according to CNN’s analysis of data from state and local health departments.”
Many of the outbreaks are happening in unvaccinated or under-vaccinated communities. In New York, the governor has even declared a state of emergency and imposed a series of restrictions on several communities outside New York City where vaccinations rates are low and measles outbreaks have been reported. Often, the outbreak starts with someone from that community who brings the disease back from an under-vaccinated location outside the United States, spreading it to unvaccinated individuals here.
The World Health Organization also says that measles is on the rise globally, and that 2019 has seen a 300% rise in the number of reported cases compared to this time in 2018.
The disease is highly contagious and someone suffering from measles can spread the disease not just by coughing or sneezing, but by touching surfaces. The disease can also “hang around” after an infected person has left a location, leaving anyone who passes through an area exposed if they aren’t up to date on their vaccinations.
There is little concrete data available on the passenger who caused the Freewinds outbreak. Scientologists are not necessarily anti-vaccine, but as Ortega reports, many are skeptical of western medicine, and that may have led to under-vaccination within Scientology’s ranks.