CDC director says Covid cases on cruise ships surged 30-fold in last two weeks

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  • CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Valensky said during a Senate hearing on Tuesday that cruise ships have seen a 30-fold increase in positive cases over the past two weeks because of the highly contagious Omicron coronavirus variant.
  • Cases have risen sharply after the agency warned against cruise ship travel, regardless of passengers’ vaccination status.

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CDC Director Dr. Cruise ships have seen a 30-fold increase in COVID-19 cases over the past two weeks because of the highly contagious Omicron coronavirus variant, Rochelle Valensky said during a Senate hearing on Tuesday.

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The cases have risen sharply after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned against cruise ship travel, regardless of the vaccination status of passengers.

In the first two weeks of December, 162 cases were reported on the ships. But as cases rose around the world, cruise lines uncovered more outbreaks. From December 15 to December 29, ships operating in US waters reported nearly 5,000 COVID cases to the CDC.

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Valensky did not provide an updated figure on cases aboard cruise ships on Tuesday.

So far, some ships are operating under the CDC’s conditional sailing order, which sets out safety procedures such as mandatory testing for foreign-operated cruise ships operating in US waters. This order is effective from October 2020 with minor modifications.

Valensky said he does not believe the order expiring after January 15 will be renewed. But the agency expects the change to a voluntary program it is working with cruise lines. Valensky said he hopes “the cruise ship industry will continue to understand that it’s a really safe practice for those industries.”

“I can’t predict what summer will bring,” Valensky said.

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