WASHINGTON | Federal health officials are extending the U.S. ban on cruise ships through the end of September as coronavirus infections rise in most U.S. states, including Florida.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday that it was extending a no-sail order that had been scheduled to expire July 24.
In the order signed by CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield, the agency said the cruise industry hasn’t controlled transmission of the virus on its ships.
The CDC said it was concerned whether cruise ships operating now with reduced crews were complying with practices designed to prevent transmitting the virus. The CDC said its concerns “highlight the need for further action prior to resuming passenger operations.”
The order covers ships that can carry 250 or more passengers. The CDC said cruise ships are more crowded than most urban settings, and even when only essential crew remains on board, the virus continues to spread.
Companies that belong to an industry trade group, the Cruise Lines International Association, had already canceled cruises until Sept. 15 because of ongoing discussions with federal officials over how to restart operations safely. Members of the group include Carnival Corp., Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings.
The trade group issued a statement saying it was committed to safety and would talk with CDC about appropriate steps to let cruises resume in the United States “when the time is right.”
From March 1 through July 10, there have been nearly 3,000 cases of COVID-19 or similar illnesses and 34 deaths on cruise ships, according to the CDC. There have been 99 outbreaks covering 80% of the ships in U.S. waters, the CDC said. Nine ships are still dealing with outbreaks, the agency said.
Coast Guard figures show that on July 10 there were 14,702 crew members on board 67 ships.
Major cruise lines are trying to save cash and raise more money on the private credit markets to survive the pandemic. Carnival Corp. said last week that it expects to burn about $20 million a day in cash through the rest of this year.
Coronavirus infections are rising in 40 states, and daily deaths have climbed more than 20% from a week ago. Florida, where many cruises begin and end, reported nearly 14,000 new virus cases and set a single-day record of 156 deaths reported on Thursday, beating the previous high of 132 deaths reported Tuesday.