CDC extends cruise ship 'no sail' order through October

The order was set to expire after Wednesday, but the CDC said recent outbreaks overseas show cruises can still spread Covid-19.
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Cruise ships docked at PortMiami in Florida in March. Wilfredo Lee / AP

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extended a "no sail" order for cruise ships through the end of October over concerns about the spread of Covid-19.

The no-sail order had been set to expire after Wednesday. It suspends passenger operations for cruise ships with the ability to carry 250 passengers or more in waters under U.S. jurisdictions, the CDC said in a statement.

The CDC extended the no-sail order, but through Oct. 31 was a date previously agreed to and announced by the Cruise Lines International Association. The CDC order notes that not all cruise ship operators are members of that large trade association or have made a similar pledge.

The extension comes as airlines prepared to furlough tens of thousands of workers after Congress failed to pass a last-minute deal to extend coronavirus relief aid to that embattled industry.

One of the earliest deaths in California linked to the novel coronavirus, which occurred in March, involved a person who was likely exposed on a cruise ship from San Francisco to Mexico, Placer County health officials said at the time. That person was reported as the first death in the state; since then officials have found that in two earlier deaths, tests for the virus came back positive.

In February, hundreds of Americans were evacuated to the U.S. after an outbreak aboard a cruise ship that was quarantined in Japan.

In extending the no-sail order, the CDC said that from March 1 through Sept. 29, data shows at least 3,689 Covid-19 or "COVID-like illness cases" on cruise ships in U.S. waters, and 41 reported deaths.

"We recognize these numbers are likely incomplete and an underestimate," the CDC said in Wednesday's statement.

The public health agency also said that there have been recent outbreaks of the virus on cruise ships overseas, showing that cruises continue to help spread the virus, even when ships sail at reduced passenger capacity.

The agency warned that cruise travel "would likely spread the infection into U.S. communities if passenger operations were to resume prematurely in the United States."

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

As of Wednesday evening, there have been more than 7.2 million cases of Covid-19 in the U.S., with more than 207,000 deaths, according to an NBC News count.