Cruises in U.S. waters halted until at least November, CDC says

Cruise ships will be barred from sailing in U.S. waters for at least another month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced late Wednesday, extending its “no sail” order through October.

That’s a far shorter extension than what the CDC originally proposed to the White House coronavirus task force, which was that cruise ships should not sail until at least February.

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But the February extension was nixed after a meeting between the CDC and members of the task force, according to officials familiar with the situation.

“Recent outbreaks on cruise ships overseas provide current evidence that cruise ship travel continues to transmit and amplify the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19,” the CDC said in a press release, “even when ships sail at reduced passenger capacities—and would likely spread the infection into U.S. communities if passenger operations were to resume prematurely in the United States.”

At least 3,689 confirmed or suspected cases of Covid-19 on cruise ships in U.S. have been reported to the CDC since March 1, the agency said. At least 41 people died.

The revised order mirrors actions taken by a trade organization representing the cruise industry, the Cruise Lines International Association, which announced over the summer that its members would suspend U.S. operations until at least Oct. 31.

The announcement “demonstrates the cruise industry’s commitment to public health and willingness to voluntarily suspend operations in the interest of public health and safety,” the group wrote in an Aug. 5 statement.

The cruise ship industry is attempting to slowly resume trips and is basing its next steps in large part on recommendations proposed by the Healthy Sail Panel, a partnership between Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Royal Caribbean Group, two of the largest cruise lines, to “guide the cruise industry’s way forward in response to COVID-19.”

A former head of the Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, and a former head of the Department of Health and Human Services, Michael Leavitt, are co-chairmen of the Healthy Sail Panel.

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In March, two large and deadly outbreaks of Covid-19 occurred on cruise ships, the Diamond Princess in Japan and the Grand Princess in California.

More than 800 passengers and crew on those ships tested positive for the coronavirus. At least 16 people died.

Those were not the only Covid-19 outbreaks on cruise ships. Indeed, outbreaks continue to be reported on cruise ships in other parts of the world. Last month, three dozen crew members aboard the Norwegian cruise ship, MS Roald Amundsen, tested positive for Covid-19, forcing the the company that runs the cruise line to suspend operations.

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