Over 90,000 cruise ship crew members stuck at sea amid coronavirus outbreak

photosvit/iStock(NEW YORK) — Even as the last passengers disembarked the Coral Princess, the latest cruise ship in the U.S. with reported cases of COVID-19, the U.S. Coast Guard said over 100 cruise ships and 90,000 crew members are still stuck at sea in or near U.S. ports and waters.

Last week, two cruise ship crew members had to be medically evacuated from Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas and one from the Celebrity Infinity, who later passed away “due to undetermined medical reasons.” The Coast Guard confirmed that all three crew members had “COVID-19 like symptoms.”

Passengers disembarked both Royal Caribbean ships in early March, but crew members remain on both boats that are currently off the coast of Florida.

In U.S. territorial waters around Florida alone there are more than 35 cruise ships with 35,000 crew members on board, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

“The entire DHS team is working together to ensure no seafarer will be left untreated during this emergency to the best of our collective ability,” Rear Adm. Eric Jones, commander of the 7th District headquartered in Miami, said. However, “cruise lines need to take additional measures” to be “reasonably self-sufficient” through better medical care and protocols.

Over the weekend, Princess Cruises said new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines have caused passenger disembarkation delays from the Coral Princess.

The CDC now recommends cruise line guests should not travel on commercial flights and that they should not share transportation with people that weren’t on the cruise.

On Wednesday, Princess Cruises confirmed to ABC News that the cruise line is working on a crew repatriation plan for the global fleet. Cruise lines are also dealing with international travel restrictions that vary by country.

“Until it is finalized and ready to action, all crew fleetwide will remain onboard in the care of Princess,” Princess Cruises said.

According to the CDC, over the last two months, COVID-19 outbreaks on three cruise ships have caused more than 800 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the United States among passengers and crew, including 10 deaths.

From Feb. 7 to 23, the largest cluster of COVID-19 cases outside mainland China were on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, according to the CDC, which was placed under quarantine for more than two weeks in Yokohama, Japan.

A report released by the CDC later found that traces of the coronavirus remained inside cabins of the Diamond Princess for up to 17 days after the cruise ship was vacated.

“COVID-19 on cruise ships poses a risk for rapid spread of disease, causing outbreaks in a vulnerable population, and aggressive efforts are required to contain spread,” the CDC said.

The CDC recommends that everyone should defer all cruise travel worldwide during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On March 13, the Cruise Lines International Association, which has over 50 members, announced ocean-going cruise lines would temporarily suspend operations from U.S. ports of call for 30 days as U.S. officials address the coronavirus outbreak. Many major cruise lines have since extended that temporary suspension timeline.

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