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CDC renews no-sail order for cruise ships; could be mid-July before ships sail again

ATLANTA — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. has extended its No Sail Order for all cruise ships.

There are currently approximately 100 cruise ships remaining at sea off the U.S. East Coast, West Coast, and Gulf Coast, with nearly 80,000 crew onboard. The CDC says it is aware of 20 cruise ships at port or anchorage in the U.S. with known or suspected COVID-19 infection among the crew who remain onboard.

“We are working with the cruise line industry to address the health and safety of crew at sea as well as communities surrounding U.S. cruise ship points of entry,” said CDC Director Robert Redfield.

In recent weeks, at least 10 cruise ships reported crew or passengers that tested positive or experienced respiratory symptoms or influenza-like illness, notes the CDC. Most recently, Holland America Line’s Zaandam and Rotterdam had a high-profile arrival at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale after prolonged and tense negotiations for permission to dock.

The CDC says its new No Sail Order will be upheld until the earliest of three situations:

  • The expiration of the Secretary of Health and Human Services’ declaration that COVID-19 constitutes a public health emergency, or
  • The CDC Director rescinds or modifies the order based on specific public health or other considerations, or
  • 100 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register. The date of publication was April 9, making the 100-day timeline approximately July 18, 2020.

In a statement the CDC says: “As we have seen with the passenger illness response on cruise ships, safely evacuating, triaging, and repatriating cruise ship crew has involved complex logistics, incurs financial costs at all levels of government, and diverts resources away from larger efforts to suppress or mitigate COVID-19. The addition of further COVID-19 cases from cruise ships also places healthcare workers at substantial increased risk.

“Some of these ships off the coast of the United States have crew that are not critical to maintain the seaworthiness or basic safe operation of the cruise ships, such as the vessel’s hotel and hospitality staff. The U.S. Government remains committed to humanitarian medevac for individuals in dire need of life-saving support.

The CDC says it has been working with the U.S. Coast Guard, the Department of Homeland Security and the cruise industry to determine the most appropriate public health strategy to limit the impact of COVID-19 at cruise ship ports of entry in the U.S. CLIA voluntarily suspended cruise ship operations in March for 30 days in conjunction with the CDC’s earlier No Sail Order issued March 14.

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