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'Incubator for Infection'; Cruise Anyone?

Updated: Apr 26, 2020

A cruise ship, says Dr. Anthony Fauci, is an "incubator for infection," and, according to The Washington Post, those floating hotels carried the coronavirus to every continent and helped spread the virus around the world. (See The Post video)

According to a special report in The Post today, the coronavirus infected passengers and crew on at least 55 ships that sailed in the waters off nearly every continent, a fifth of the total global fleet.

Those vessels carried thousands of international passengers to far-flung ports and helped seed the virus around the globe, health officials told The Post. According to the article:

The industry’s decision to keep sailing for weeks after the coronavirus was first detected in early February on a cruise ship off the coast of Japan, despite the efforts by top U.S. health officials to curtail voyages, was among a number of decisions that health experts and passengers say contributed to the mounting toll.

The virus affected travelers on 55 ships and killed at least 65 people, though the full scope is unknown.

At least 65 people who traveled or worked on the ships have since died, according to The Post tally, although the full scope of deaths is unknown. A similar review by the Miami Herald also identified 65 deaths linked to ships.

“People on a large ship, all together, at the same time, all the time — you couldn’t ask for a better incubator for infection,”said Dr. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-diseases expert, in February.

According to The Post's article, in many instances, cruise ship staff did not immediately isolate sick passengers in their cabins, and in some cases, such as on the Celebrity Eclipse and the Coral Princess, passengers said they were reassured by company officials there was no coronavirus infection on their ships — even as some travelers suffered from fevers and coughs.

Industry's Actions

Meanwhile, the industry trade association, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), issued a press release April 21, apparently in an effort to sugar coat the industry's reported role in spreading the disease.

"The top priority for our entire community—including cruise lines, travel agents, ports, destinations, suppliers and beyond—continues to be the health and safety of passengers, crew and the communities in the places we visit," the press release stated.

"The fact remains that the vast majority of more than 270 cruise ships within the CLIA member fleet were not affected by this virus. This is due, in large part, to the aggressive measures adopted by CLIA oceangoing cruise lines in response to COVID-19 based on prevailing guidance from global health authorities, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Those measures include rigorous screening protocols, enhanced sanitation measures and the availability of onboard medical care and treatment 24/7."

CLIA pointed out that the virus  "can affect any setting where people come together to socialize and enjoy shared experiences. For this reason—and upon the WHO’s declaration of a pandemic in mid-March—CLIA oceangoing cruise lines took the unprecedented step to voluntarily suspend worldwide operations, making the cruise industry one of the first to do so."

Of course, by the time of that declaration by the World Health Organization, the cat already was out of the bag, so to speak. The virus had been let loose, carried by sick passengers and crew to points far and wide.

Of course, there is more at stake than just people's lives, as the press release noted:

"Unfortunately, the suspension of cruise operations will have a pronounced detrimental effect on the global economy. The cruise industry generates more than $150 billion per year in global economic activity and supports over 1.17 million jobs worldwide. Cruising touches almost every sector, from transportation and agriculture, to hospitality and tourism, manufacturing and beyond. When the time is right for cruise ships to once again set sail, our community will be an important part of the global economic and societal recovery."

In other words, stopping those cruises cost the tourism industry, including cruise operators, a lot of money and is still doing so.

So when "the time is right for cruise ships to once again set sail," will you be aboard?

Not me.

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