Federal officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are investigating outbreaks of COVID-19 on at least 88 cruise ships, according to data published Wednesday.
As of Wednesday, 88 cruise ships were classified in the CDC’s “Yellow” standard, meaning there are sufficient coronavirus cases on board to trigger the agency’s investigative process. The agency did not specify how many COVID-19 cases have been reported. Four other vessels are being monitored by the CDC as well.
Restricted voyages, or ships with paying passengers, must meet several criteria in order to be elevated to the “Yellow” standard: At least 0.1% of the passengers on board tested positive for COVID-19 in the previous 7 days or if there are one or more cases reported to the crew.
For example, an investigation into a ship with 6,500 passengers – which is the capacity of the largest commercial cruise ship – would be triggered by just 7 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
For officials to launch investigations into simulated voyages (i.e. cruises with volunteer passengers in which the ship proves to the CDC it is in compliance with all COVID-19 mitigation requirements) there must be cases reported in 1.5% or more of passengers, or 1.0% or more of crew.
“As part of the investigation, CDC will obtain additional information from the cruise ship, such as case exposure histories, details about close contacts, traveler vaccination rates, and medical capacities,” an agency spokesperson told Spectrum News in an emailed statement. “CDC will work closely with the cruise line and consider multiple factors before assigning a ‘Red’ status to the ship.”
Should a ship reach “Red” status, federal officials will recommend additional public health measures – including an immediate return to port and delay of future voyages – based on the results of the CDC investigation.
Currently, all of the ships under CDC investigation are restricted cruises.
None of the ships so far appear to have so many cases that they would overwhelm medical resources on board and require a return to port. But some have been denied entry at some foreign ports.
Several Florida-based ships have reported outbreaks. The Carnival Freedom was denied entry to Aruba and Bonaire after an undisclosed number of passengers and crew aboard caught the virus.
Some cruise ships have not been allowed to disembark in Mexican ports due to cases reported, bringing to memory the early days of the pandemic when cruise lines negotiated docking plans as ships were being turned away by officials worried about the virus’s spread.
The Mexican government said Tuesday it would allow cruise ships with reported coronavirus cases to dock. The country’s Health Department said passengers or crew who show no symptoms will be allowed to come ashore normally, while those with symptoms or a positive virus test will be quarantined or given medical care.