PANAMA CITY (AP/WFLA) — The Panama Canal Authority says two cruise ships carrying more than 1,800 passengers and crew stranded off the Central American country and hoping to reach port in Florida had begun the process of transiting the canal.

While Panamanian officials said they would let the ships transit the canal, the cruise company said it had not been given permission and Fort Lauderdale’s mayor said he didn’t want the ship to dock near his city, at least without extensive precautions. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis later said the passengers could not be dumped in his state.

“First of all, I’m not supportive of that,” DeSantis said at a press conference on Monday. “We’ve talked to the Coast Guard, the Coast Guard, I don’t think wants them to come in. We’ve talked to the White House about it, and we don’t want it to come in.”

Four people aboard it had died and at least two had tested positive for COVD-19. The ships were hoping to dock in Port Everglades.

Passengers, one wearing a protective face mask, look out from the Zaandam cruise ship, anchored in the bay of Panama City, Friday, March 27, 2020. Several passengers have died aboard the cruise ship and a few people aboard the ship have tested positive for the new coronavirus, the cruise line said Friday, with hundreds of passengers unsure how long they will remain at sea. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)

“They need to get medical care out on the ship, and they can work with the folks in D.C. or whoever to get out there and administer the care to folks there. That averts what could potentially be a big, big problem,” DeSantis continued. “We have enough to deal with with our folks in Florida. We’ve got almost 22 million people. Just this area is heavily populated. Having people from other states flee to here, having a cruise ship come in, it creates problems and we want to focus on Floridians.”