Public Health

Covid cases on cruise ships rose 30-fold in two weeks

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, testifies during a Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing to discuss the federal response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and new emerging variants to examine Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, USA, January 11, 2022.

Shawn Thew | Reuters

Cruise lines have seen a 30-fold increase in Covid-19 cases in two weeks due to the highly contagious Omicron variant, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky during a Senate hearing on Tuesday.

The sharp rise in cases comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned against cruise ship travel regardless of passengers’ vaccination status.

In the first two weeks of December, 162 cases were reported on board ships. But as cases surged around the world, cruise lines announced more outbreaks. Ships operating in US waters have reported about 5,000 Covid cases to the CDC from December 15-29.

Walensky did not provide updated figures on cruise ship cases during Tuesday’s hearing.

To date, certain ships have operated under the CDC’s conditional sailing regulations, which establish safety procedures such as mandatory testing for overseas-operated cruise ships plying in American waters. This order has been in effect since October 2020 with minor changes.

Walensky said she doesn’t think the order, which is due to end on January 15, will be extended. Instead, the agency expects to move to a voluntary program and work with cruise lines.

The CDC director said she hopes “the cruise industry will continue to understand that this is a really safe practice for these industries.”

“What I can’t predict is what summer will bring,” she added.

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