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Cruise lines suspend operations until at least Oct. 31 amid COVID-19 pandemic

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) announced on Wednesday that its ocean-going cruise line members have agreed to “voluntarily suspend U.S. cruise operations” until Oct. 31. amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Members of CLIA include Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Virgin Voyages and Carnival Cruise Lines, which had tweeted about its service pause extension on Tuesday.

In a statement, CLIA said that despite how it extended its previous voluntary suspension to Sept. 15, and how the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a No-Sail Order date of Sept. 30, the organization felt it was “prudent at this time” to voluntarily extend its suspension of cruise operations until the end of the month.

“This is a difficult decision as we recognize the crushing impact that this pandemic has had on our community and every other industry,” according to CLIA’s statement. “However, we believe this proactive action further demonstrates the cruise industry’s commitment to public health and willingness to voluntarily suspend operations in the interest of public health and safety, as has occurred twice prior.”

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The organization said it will continue to monitor the situation “with the understanding that we will revisit a possible further extension” on or before Sept. 30. 
"At the same time, should conditions in the U.S. change and it becomes possible to consider short, modified sailings, we would consider an earlier restart," CLIA said.

The cruise line industry has been devastated by the pandemic, with many cruise ships having served as areas for outbreaks of COVID-19. Carnival Corp., one of the largest cruise line operators in the world, lost $4.4 billion in the quarter that ended May 31, the company said in a press release.

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"The current scientific evidence suggests that cruise ships pose a greater risk of COVID-19 transmission than other settings because of the high population density onboard on ships, which are typically more densely populated than cities or most other living situation," the CDC said in July

“Other factors likely contributing to onboard transmission are crew living and working in close quarters in a partially enclosed environment where social distancing may prove challenging, even with a limited number of people onboard,” the CDC continued. “Additionally, mild illnesses and asymptomatic infections make case detection and isolation and quarantine practices based on clinical presentation alone challenging.”

On Aug. 4, the Associated Press reported how the number of passengers on a Norwegian cruise ship who tested positive for COVID-19 had reached 43.

In February, there was an outbreak of the novel coronavirus among passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which the CDC described in March as the “largest cluster of COVID-19 cases outside of mainland China."