CDC extends 'no sail' order for cruise ships due to coronavirus concerns

The CDC said recent passenger voyages in foreign countries continue to have outbreaks

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday said it has extended a "no sail" order for cruise ships through the end of October amid continued concerns due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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This order, which was set to expire after Sept. 30, will continue to suspend passenger cruise ship operations that have the capacity to carry at least 250 passengers or more in waters subject to U.S. jurisdiction, according to a statement by the CDC.

The agency said cruise ships would likely spread the virus into U.S. communities if passenger operations were to "resume prematurely" in the states.

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"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," the CDC said.

Data reported to the CDC from March 1 to Sept. 29, showed at least 3,689 COVID-19 or "COVID-like" illness cases on cruise ships in U.S. waters, as well as, 41 deaths from the virus. The agency added that those numbers are likely to be an underestimate.

Early on during the pandemic, hundreds of American passengers who had been quarantined on a cruise ship were evacuated on two planes to the U.S.

The public health agency also cited how passenger voyages in foreign countries continue to have outbreaks, despite safety protocols in place to limit the spread of the virus.

According to the CDC, more time was required to understand how officials can properly control virus transmission on cruise ships. It said resuming operations would place a burden on public health authorities because of the need for more testing, isolating efforts, and contact tracing.

Those factors -- and the continued spread of the pandemic worldwide in countries that had previously suppressed transmission -- supported the extension of the order "at this time," the agency said.

Prior to the decision by the CDC, the cruise industry was reportedly hoping the Sept. 30 deadline would expire quietly so ships could again return to the waters, as their business has been severely impacted during the pandemic.

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The no-sail order was first put in place in March and has been extended since then.

Meanwhile, American Airlines will begin furloughing 19,000 employees on Thursday after lawmakers and the White House failed to agree on a broad pandemic-relief package that includes more federal aid for airlines.

United Airlines said the impasse forced it to furlough 13,000 workers.

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As of early Wednesday, the U.S. has more than 7,233,043 total coronavirus cases, and at least 206,959 deaths from the virus, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.