Cruise Ship Coronavirus Risks Lead CDC to Extend Suspension Until Sept 30

Federal regulatory officials have announced the “No Sail Order”, which prohibits passenger cruise ships from returning to operations amid the COVID-19 pandemic, will be extended through at least the end of September 2020.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced an extension of the passenger cruise ship suspension on July 16, ordering all passenger line cruise operations to remain inactive until September 30, 2020, or until acceptable infectious disease control measures to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 are implemented.

The CDC indicated the return to operation would jeopardize the safety of passengers and crew members and drastically increase the spread of COVID-19 cases.

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In an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus the CDC and the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the leading industry trade group, issued a “No Sail Order” on March 14, suspending cruise ship operations from U.S. ports. The CDC issued the first extension of the “No Sail Order” on April 15, banning operations through July 24, as case counts and deaths rates continued to rise across the globe.

As the expiration date approaches and COVID-19 case counts continue to rise across the world, the agency has issued a second extension to enforce the order through September 30, 2020.

When the COVID-19 outbreak first became widespread in the United States in late February, many cruise lines were caught off guard and unprepared to respond to a virus that could quickly spread among passengers and crew members aboard, causing numerous deaths and illnesses and stranding some ships at sea or under quarantine for long periods of time. Many critics claim cruise line services dramatically mishandled the response to the outbreak, putting profits over passenger safety.

Within the revised order, officials indicated a total of 99 COVID-19 outbreaks occurred on cruise ships from March 1 to July 10, impacting 80% of all cruise ships operating within U.S. jurisdiction. Officials noted that, to date, at least nine cruise ships still have ongoing or resolving COVID-19 outbreaks onboard, involving crew members performing maintenance.

A recent CDC report based on data collected since March 1 determined infected passengers are not only likely to spread the virus among other passengers, due to sharing common services and being in close proximity to other guests, but also how quickly they could spread infection when getting off the ships.

The agency reportedly spent more than 38,000 person-hours performing contact tracing on more than 11,000 passengers. They discovered those infected leaving cruise ships are highly likely to cause the virus to spread due to the use of airplanes to and from the port, staying at hotels and using public transportation or ride-sharing services.

Earlier this month Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line announced the assembly of the “Healthy Sail Panel”; an advisory panel comprised of health and regulatory experts tasked with developing COVID-19 safety standards to protect passengers and crew members when cruise line operations to resume.

Governor Mike Leavitt, former Secretary of the U.S. Department Health and Human Services (HHS) and Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), have been appointed as co-chairs of the panel and will be leading the development of enhanced cruise health and safety recommendations in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The CDC recently announced more than 230,000 new cases of COVID-19 were reported on July 12, marking the largest single day increase since the epidemic began. Many experts across the U.S. have contributed the spike in COVID-19 cases to states easing restricting or advancing into re-opening phases too quickly.

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