CDC, State Department say Americans should avoid cruise ships during coronavirus outbreak

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Federal health officials and the U.S. State Department are recommending all travelers avoid cruise ships as the novel coronavirus spreads worldwide.

The recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the State Department is an escalation from the previous guidance, which only applied to the elderly and people with underlying health issues.

The CDC noted that cruise ship passengers are at an “increased risk” because COVID-19 appears to spread more easily between people in close quarters.

The Grand Princess, a cruise ship containing at least 21 infected passengers, will dock in California on Monday. American citizens will be transferred for treatment at medical facilities or quarantined at military bases if they’re not showing symptoms. It’s not known how many of the passengers have the disease, because only 46 people of the 3,500 aboard have been tested as of late last week, Vice President Pence said Friday.

Another 700 passengers aboard another cruise ship called the Diamond Princess were infected by the coronavirus last month.

The new guidance from the CDC emphasized that older adults and people with underlying health conditions are most at risk for severe disease caused by the coronavirus and should avoid crowded places, non-essential travel such as long plane trips and “especially” on cruise ships.

The State Department notes that many countries have denied port entry rights to ships, prevented passengers from disembarking or subjected them to local quarantine procedures.

“While the U.S. government has evacuated some cruise ship passengers in recent weeks, repatriation flights should not be relied upon as an option for U.S. citizens under the potential risk of quarantine by local authorities,” the State Department said.

Americans who do travel on cruise ships should monitor their health and limit their interactions with other people for 14 days after returning to the U.S., the CDC said.

More than 111,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed worldwide, including 566 cases in the U.S.

Most of the U.S. cases are centered in parts of Washington state and California, where the disease is spreading within communities.

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