U.S. CDC Extends Its "No Sail Order" Through October 31

Grand Classica Port of Palm Beach Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line Editorial Use Only By Susan J Young
Cruise ships won't be able to sail from U.S. ports through at least October 31, as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has extended the "No Sail Order." Shown above is Grand Classica at the Port of Palm Beach.(Susan J Young)

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has extended its "No Sail Order" for cruise ships operating from U.S. ports and in U.S. waters through October 31.  The order applies only to ships carrying more than 250 people (passengers and crew).  

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) previously announced that its oceangoing member lines would not sail prior to October 31; that, too, applied only to ships carrying more than 250 people. 

The CDC reportedly had desired to extend the "No Sail Order" through February 2021. According to USA Today and Business Insider, both of which reported that the CDC was overruled for that timing by Vice President Mike Pence and the White House Task Force dealing with the coronavirus situation. 

Official Statement

Here is what the CDC said in its official press release on the "No Sail Order:"

"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced today the extension of a 'No Sail Order' for cruise ships through October 31, 2020. This order continues to suspend passenger operations on cruise ships with the capacity to carry at least 250 [people] in waters subject to U.S. jurisdiction.

"Cumulative surveillance data reported to CDC from March 1 through September 29, 2020, shows at least 3,689 COVID-19 or COVID-like illness cases on cruise ships in U.S. waters, in addition to at least 41 reported deaths. We recognize these numbers are likely incomplete and an underestimate.

"Recent outbreaks on cruise ships overseas provide current evidence that cruise ship travel continues to transmit and amplify the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19—even when ships sail at reduced passenger capacities—and would likely spread the infection  into U.S. communities if passenger operations were to resume prematurely in the United States.

"The challenges described in the 'No Sail Order' highlight the need for further action before cruise ships can safely resume passenger operations in the United States.  Recent passenger voyages in foreign countries continue to have outbreaks, despite cruise ship operators having extensive health and safety protocols to prevent the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 on board and spread to communities where passengers disembark. When health and safety protocols were apparently observed, resuming passenger operations significantly burdened public health authorities by creating the need for additional SARS-CoV-2 testing, isolation of infected travelers, contact tracing, and quarantine of exposed people.

"The continued spread of the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide, risk of resurgence in countries that have suppressed transmission, ongoing concerns related to restarting of cruising internationally, and need for additional time to assess industry measures to control potential SARS-CoV-2 transmission on board cruise ships with passengers without burdening public health, support continuation of the 'No Sail Order' at this time.

"On cruise ships, passengers and crew share spaces that are more crowded than most urban settings. Data show that when only essential crew are on board, ongoing spread of SARS-CoV-2 still occurs. If unrestricted cruise ship passenger operations were permitted to resume, passengers and crew on board would be at increased risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection and those that work or travel on cruise ships would place substantial unnecessary risk on healthcare workers, port personnel and federal partners (i.e., Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Coast Guard), and the communities they return to.

"This Order will remain in effect until the earliest of:

  1. The expiration of the Secretary of Health and Human Services’ declaration that COVID-19 constitutes a public health emergency,
  2. The CDC Director rescinds or modifies the order based on specific public health or other considerations, or
  3. October 31, 2020.

"CDC will continue to update its guidance and recommendations to specify basic safety standards and public health interventions based on the best scientific evidence available. For more information about COVID-19 and cruise ships, please visit www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/cruise-ship/what-cdc-is-doing.html. To view the 'No Sail Order,' go to www.cdc.gov/quarantine/cruise."

Background Information

CLIA and its member lines had previously agreed to halt cruises from U.S. ports through October 31. Last week CLIA also submitted core elements of health/safety protocols to the CDC; those elements are now mandatory for all CLIA member lines.

In addition, the Healthy Sail Panel (set up by Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings) had submitted 74 recommendations to the CDC last week.

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