The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced today the extension of a No Sail Order, originally signed on March 14th, for all cruise ships.
On March 14, 2020, the CDC Director issued a No Sail Order and Other Measures Related to Operations directing cruise ships not voluntarily suspending operations to comply with measures outlined by the CDC and U.S. Coast Guard. This followed a March 13, 2020, announcement by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the leading industry trade group, that its members would voluntarily suspend cruise ship operations. On March 17, 2020, CDC issued a Level 3 Travel Warning that all travelers defer cruise travel worldwide based on widespread ongoing transmission of COVID-19.
The full text of the CDC’s renewed No Sail Order, which can be read in this pdf, includes a section presented below detailing events since the issuance of the March 14th order. This section specifically references the Disney Wonder among other cruise ships.
There are a number of recent incidences of reported COVID-19 spread onboard cruise ships including the Costa Magica, Costa Favolosa, Celebrity Eclipse, Disney Wonder, Holland America Zaandam, and Celebrity Coral Princess. The Costa Magica and the Costa Favolosa, reported at least 88 ill crew members on board with respiratory symptoms of COVID-19. On March 26, 2020, in coordination with U.S. Coast Guard and public health personnel, four infected crew members were evacuated off the Magica and seven from the Favolosa for life-critical care at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Florida. The Zaandam cruise ship reported illness consistent with COVID-19 in at least 250 persons onboard – guests and crew members; 76 of these persons remain symptomatic. Four passengers onboard the Zaandam have died (one or non-COVID-19 related reasons). As of April 1, 2020, four crew members onboard the Eclipse have tested positive for COVID-19, three of whom remain on the ship. One passenger onboard the Eclipse required emergency medical evacuation and is currently hospitalized in San Diego, California after having tested positive for COVID-19. The Wonder reported four crew members who have tested positive for COVID-19. Two of the four are now hospitalized, the two others are isolated on the ship; an additional three former passengers (from the last voyage who disembarked) are also positive. Most recently, the Coral Princess reported 12 persons (seven passengers and five crew members) onboard who are confirmed positive for COVID-19 and an additional 43 suspected cases in persons with influenza-like illness. As of April 3, 2020, there are four patients on oxygen in the ship’s medical center.CDC Renewed and Modified No Sail Order – April 9, 2020 (archived copy)
The last voyage of the Disney Wonder referenced above was the March 6th Westbound Panama Canal Cruise from New Orleans which was included in yesterday’s report from the CDC showing two Disney Wonder sailings were affected by coronavirus.
Below is the press release issued by the CDC.
“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. “The measures we are taking today to stop the spread of COVID-19 are necessary to protect Americans, and we will continue to provide critical public health guidance to the industry to limit the impacts of COVID-19 on its workforce throughout the remainder of this pandemic.”CDC Director Robert Redfield
The No Sail Order reinforces the strong action by President Donald J. Trump and the White House Coronavirus Task Force to combat the spread of COVID-19 in the United States. President Trump acted early and decisively to implement travel restrictions on foreign nationals who had recently been to China and Europe and by issuing the 30 Days to Slow the Spread guidelines. These containment and mitigation strategies have been a critical component of the United States COVID-19 response, but despite these efforts, cruise ship travel markedly increases the risk and impact of the COVID-19 outbreak within the United States.
In recent weeks, at least 10 cruise ships reported crew or passengers that tested positive or experienced respiratory symptoms or influenza-like illness. Currently, there are approximately 100 cruise ships remaining at sea off the East Coast, West Coast, and Gulf Coast, with nearly 80,000 crew onboard. Additionally, CDC is aware of 20 cruise ships at port or anchorage in the United States with known or suspected COVID-19 infection among the crew who remain onboard.
There are several public health concerns when crew members become ill while onboard the cruise ships. 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, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Department of Homeland Security have been working with the industry to determine the most appropriate public health strategy to limit the impact of COVID-19 at cruise ship ports of entry in the United States. Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) voluntarily suspended cruise ship operations in March in conjunction with the earlier No Sail Order issued March 14. The industry has since been working to build an illness response framework to combat COVID-19 on ships with international crew members who remain on board and at sea.
This order ceases operations of cruise ships in waters in which the United States may exert jurisdiction and requires that they develop a comprehensive, detailed operational plan approved by CDC and the USCG to address the COVID-19 pandemic through maritime focused solutions, including a fully implementable response plan with limited reliance on state, local, and federal government support. These plans would help prevent, mitigate, and respond to the spread of COVID-19, by:
- monitoring of passengers and crew medical screenings;
- training crew on COVID-19 prevention;
- managing and responding to an outbreak on board; and
- submitting a plan to USCG and CDC for review
This Order shall continue in operation until the earliest of three situations. First, the expiration of the Secretary of Health and Human Services’ declaration that COVID-19 constitutes a public health emergency. Second, the CDC Director rescinds or modifies the order based on specific public health or other considerations. Or third, 100 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register.
Additional information in the order includes:
- Cruise ship operators are not allowed to disembark travelers (passengers or crew) at ports or stations, except as directed by the USCG, in consultation with HHS/CDC personnel, and as appropriate, as coordinated with federal, state, and local authorities.
- Cruise ship operators should not embark or re-embark any crew member, except as approved by the USCG, in consultation with HHS/CDC personnel, until further notice.
- While in port, cruise ship operators shall observe health precautions directed by HHS/CDC personnel.
- The cruise ship operator should comply with all HHS/CDC, USCG, and other federal agency instructions to follow CDC recommendations and guidance for any public health actions relating to passengers, crew, ship, or any article or thing onboard the ship, as needed, including by making ship’s manifests and logs available and collecting any specimens for COVID-19 testing.
For more information about COVID-19 and cruise ships, please visit the following CDC articles: CDC’s role in helping cruise ship travelers during the COVID-19 pandemic and to view the no sail order go to the CDC’s Cruise Ship Guidance page.
After sleeping on this and reading comments on social media, I’ve decided to add a bit of my opinion on at the end of this article. Take it with a grain of salt, it’s just my 2¢.
Please do not focus on the 100 day part of the No Sail Order. This is just one of three situations established to rescind or extend the order. These clauses are more likely to occur than an arbitrary 100-day statement. This is why I didn’t mention an end date in the article. I think by now, we should all know days/dates are arbitrary as the pandemic continuously evolves. Focusing on a date such as this will only set an expectation that could end up causing further disappointment.
More than likely the other two situations will determine the CDC’s stance on cruising within US jurisdiction, not a day countdown.