ST. PAUL — U.S. Sen. Tina Smith of Minnesota on Wednesday, April 1, called on her fellow lawmakers to allow a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship and its sister vessel to dock and disembark.

The Zaandam and Rotterdam cruise ships have not been ashore since they docked at Punta Arenas, Chile, on March 14. Since then, more than 150 passengers and crew members aboard the Zaandam, which is carrying several Minnesotans, have taken ill with flu-like symptoms, eight of whom tested positive for COVID-19.

Four people on the ship have died, according to a release from Smith's office. Both ships are bound for Florida, where they face an uncertain future.

"The passengers and staff aboard the Zaandam and Rotterdam cruise ships need our help now. Our first and foremost priority should be to help Minnesotans and Americans safely disembark, find appropriate environments for quarantine, and ensure immediate medical attention for those who need it most," Smith, a Democrat, said in a statement. "An indefinite quarantine on the ships is not a solution and that option should not be on the table."

In her statement, Smith said she has been in contact with the Minnesotans aboard the Zaandam as well as their families. No cases of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, have been confirmed on the Rotterdam.

Some of the Zaandam's passengers had earlier transferred to the Rotterdam on Sunday, March 29, before crossing the Panama Canal in an effort to limit sickness from spreading.

Holland America Line, which owns and operates the ships, is still trying finalize "when and where" its guests will be able to exit, according to its website. In a statement, the company asked for "compassion an humanity to be extended for our arrival."

Combined, the two ships are carrying nearly 2,300 passengers and crew members, the former of whom have been told to self-isolate in their rooms.