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CDC’s role in helping cruise ship travelers during the COVID-19 pandemic

Outbreaks of infectious diseases can happen on cruise ships because people spend time close together and with travelers from many countries. Disease can spread between ships when crew members from a ship with an outbreak transfer to other ships. Infected people may also travel on cruise ships between countries. For these reasons, outbreaks of COVID-19 on cruise ships pose a risk for rapid spread of disease beyond the voyage and into communities across the globe.

Because of the unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and the high risk of COVID-19 spread on cruise ships, the US government issued a No Sail Order for cruise ships in waters subject to US jurisdiction and has advised US travelers to defer all cruise travel. The No Sail Order is published in the Federal Register.

CDC continues to work to control COVID-19 on cruise ships at sea while also protecting against further introduction and spread of COVID-19 into communities. The COVID-19 pandemic is constantly evolving, and aggressive efforts are needed to contain the spread. CDC will continue to evaluate and update our recommendations as the situation evolves.

What is the No Sail Order?

In response to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic and the increased risk of spread of COVID-19 on cruise ships, CDC published the first industry-wide No Sail Order on March 14 to prevent, among other things, new passengers from boarding cruise ships. CDC extended its No Sail Order, effective April 15, 2020, to continue to suspend all cruise ship operations in waters subject to US jurisdiction. Among other things, cruise lines are required to develop comprehensive plans to prevent, detect, respond to, and contain COVID-19 on their cruise ships to protect the health and safety of both passengers and crew.

How long is the No Sail Order in effect?

The extended Order is in effect until one of the following occurs:

  • The Secretary of Health and Human Services declares that COVID-19 no longer 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 have passed from April 15, the date the extended order was published in the Federal Registerexternal icon and went into effect.100 days from April 15 is July 24.

Why did CDC extend the No Sail Order?

The No Sail Order was extended to protect the public, cruise ship passengers, cruise ship crews, and other industry workers. By restricting cruise ship passenger operations, the Order helps achieve several public health goals:

  • Prevents further spread of COVID-19 into and within the United States

  • Preserves critical federal, state, and local resources that are needed to respond to COVID-19

  • Preserves critical healthcare, emergency, and port resources

What cruise ships does the No Sail Order cover?

The No Sail Order applies to all cruise ships, which it defines as commercial passenger ships with the capacity to carry more than 250 people and where an overnight stay onboard by passengers or crew is anticipated. The Order applies to all cruise ships operating, or seeking to operate, in waters subject to US jurisdiction, including those that have previously voluntarily suspended operations. It does not apply to cargo ships.

What does the No Sail Order mean for my upcoming trip?

Passengers who plan to travel by cruise ship should contact their cruise line companies directly for further information.

On March 17, 2020, CDC issued a Level 3 travel health notice with a clear recommendation to avoid all cruise travel due to ongoing spread of COVID-19 and the increased risk of person-to-person spread of infectious diseases on cruise ships. The No Sail Order suspends all cruise ship operations in waters subject to US jurisdiction.

What is CDC doing to help cruise ships with crew still on board?

We are currently in a phase of the pandemic where it is necessary to implement strict measures to control the spread of COVID-19. Just as the American public has a role to play by staying home to slow the spread, cruise lines have a role to play in properly caring for their crew, including isolating them if they are sick and quarantining them if they have been exposed.

Cruise lines operating ships in US waters should have their crew do the same thing that the American public has been asked to do:

  • Shelter in place

  • Practice social distancing

  • Take other precautions to decrease their risk of getting or spreading COVID-19

CDC has provided clear guidance to cruise lines about how to keep their crew safe during the period of the No Sail Order and what is needed to allow them to disembark.

CDC permits cruise ships to disembark their crew members if the cruise line signs an attestation stating that the cruise line has complied with all requirements for the safe disembarkation of crew. These requirements include ensuring safe transportation by noncommercial means, providing cloth face coverings to crew members or ensuring they have their own, and providing instructions to crew members to stay home for 14 days after they reach their destination. The requirements for crew disembarkation, including a signed attestation that the cruise line will adhere to all of CDC’s requirements, has been provided to all cruise lines operating ships in US waters. Crew members who want to disembark should contact their cruise line about the process for disembarkation.

Cruise ships have medical facilities on board that can provide medical care to sick crew members as needed. As part of their cruise ship plans, cruise lines should make sure they have enough medical staff, equipment, supplies, and other resources to provide care for sick people on board. They also need a plan to transfer sick crew members to a hospital on land if they need medical care that the ship’s medical facility can’t provide.

CDC and federal partners are monitoring ships with crew only, and we are working with the cruise companies and local and state health departments to ensure that seriously ill crew members can get medical assistance on land if the ship can’t provide it. CDC remains committed to humanitarian medical evacuation for people in need of lifesaving support.

What is CDC doing to help cruise ships with passengers still on board?

A small number of passengers are still aboard cruise ships in and around US waters. These passengers are awaiting repatriation to their home countries. CDC is working with partners as part of the Unified Command, including Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, port authorities, local and state health departments, and Department of State, along with cruise lines, to help remaining cruise ship passengers get home as quickly and safely as possible.

Cruise Ships International Voyages Affected by COVID-19

These are cruise ships that had international voyages with US ports, which are under US CDC jurisdiction. International voyages without US ports of call are not under CDC jurisdiction and not included.

International cruise voyages were suspended on March 14, 2020, due to CDC’s No Sail Order.

*CDC was notified about COVID-19-positive travelers who had symptoms while on board these ships.

For all other ships, CDC was notified about travelers who had symptoms and tested positive for COVID-19 within 14 days after disembarking. Since these travelers’ symptoms began after the voyage, the traveler might have contracted COVID-19 during the voyage; however, other sources of transmission

after the voyage cannot be ruled out.

source: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/cruise-ship/what-cdc-is-doing.html

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Copyright 2019 Hawai`i Senate Majority

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