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Recent article and comments from CDC official on return to cruising


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Here is a Miami Herald article (see link below) from June 2nd.  It mostly speaks to the CDC's proposed Red-Yellow-Green coded system for ships and grading the amount of COVID-19 amongst the crew members still on board.  But it has a number of interesting comments such as this one from CDC’s director of the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine Martin Cetron. 

 

"Cetron said the CDC has not begun to review plans for how to safely operate cruises prior to development of a vaccine."

 

Just my opinion after reading this article and the comments from the CDC and the cruise line spokespeople.  Just getting the existing crew off the ships is the number 1 priority of CDC and cruise lines ongoing discussions.  It seems we are still in for quite a period of time before guidelines are released for re-starting passenger operations. 

 

https://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/tourism-cruises/article243180861.html

 

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Thank you for sharing.  If the CDC is just now getting ready to publish proposals for repatriation of crew with meetings to follow during the following weeks or months; it certainly suggests we are looking at a solution to get crew home in the next couple of months.

Some of the crew solutions apply to passengers, but sure looks like some months to get rules approved that would allow cruising to resume.  Combined with both upcoming elections and summer holidays a decision likely to be delayed.

The good news is a couple of pharma are getting closer to phase 3 vaccine trails.  Production and distribution will be facilitated by government.  I feel vaccination will be required for cruising.  Legally defensible as we already require vaccinations to visit some countries.  A decision to vaccinate is personal.  Cruising like visiting the DRC are not required.

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As a medical professional, the article and the embedded links are fascinating.

one link leads to interviews by the Miami Herald with 5 physicians with varying expertise- ID experts, an anonymous cruise ship MD, emergency MD, doctors who were flown out to help treat patients in the onboard outbreaks - their recommendations were in one case echoed word for word by the CDC official. Another interesting link for me was the one about the crew members being repatriated to St. Vincent’s - some of them tested positive on rapid tests after months at sea. Based on what we are seeing, I’m a little dubious about any rapid testing, BUT, I also think it very reasonable that the virus would be circulating undetected or underdetected in a population of relatively young healthy people.

 We really need data from well designed, well executed population studies using both PCR tests and antibody tests. It’s coming but it is hard to wait. 

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13 minutes ago, cangelmd said:

...Another interesting link for me was the one about the crew members being repatriated to St. Vincent’s - some of them tested positive on rapid tests after months at sea. Based on what we are seeing, I’m a little dubious about any rapid testing, BUT, I also think it very reasonable that the virus would be circulating undetected or underdetected in a population of relatively young healthy people.

 We really need data from well designed, well executed population studies using both PCR tests and antibody tests. It’s coming but it is hard to wait. 

Agreed.

Regarding the rapid tests, it has been shown that there are many false positives and false negatives so they are not entirely reliable.

Edited by C-Dragons
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Would have liked to read the article but unfortunately, the link brings me to a page which seems to be subscription only, and I can't get past that even if I look up the article from the Miami Herald home page.

 

Well I found a link on which was posted on FB.  So I  could read the article

 

Edited by ecslady
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I just don't see how they are able to restart cruising by summer if they have only repatriated half of their current crew.  I have a cruise scheduled in November and I am starting to wonder if they will even be sailing by then.  It's taken about two months to get half of the crew home, how long will it take to get the rest off?  Add to this the time to rehire staff, gett them cleared to work, and keep them safe and virus-free until sailings start again...the timeline just doesn't look good for any cruising in 2020.  The logistics involved are monumental; also, how many of these people who just went through this ordeal will even want to come back and work on a cruise ship?  I forsee staffing issues until there is a vaccine to prevent illness so they can work their entire contract-length without fear or not only getting sick, but also being able to get back to their homes.

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5 hours ago, TeeRick said:

"Cetron said the CDC has not begun to review plans for how to safely operate cruises prior to development of a vaccine."

 

Keep in mind that the CDC is a government regulator just like the FAA.  They are risk adverse.  The FAA is now going on its second year of reviewing the 737-Max fixes and still hasn't granted approval to return to service.  I don't expect the CDC will be as slow in granting cruise lines approval to return to service, but I sure don't expect approval to be speedy.

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18 hours ago, JonnyCT81 said:

I just don't see how they are able to restart cruising by summer if they have only repatriated half of their current crew.  I have a cruise scheduled in November and I am starting to wonder if they will even be sailing by then.  It's taken about two months to get half of the crew home, how long will it take to get the rest off?  Add to this the time to rehire staff, gett them cleared to work, and keep them safe and virus-free until sailings start again...the timeline just doesn't look good for any cruising in 2020.  The logistics involved are monumental; also, how many of these people who just went through this ordeal will even want to come back and work on a cruise ship?  I forsee staffing issues until there is a vaccine to prevent illness so they can work their entire contract-length without fear or not only getting sick, but also being able to get back to their homes.

Yes that was my take on it too.

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18 hours ago, ecslady said:

Would have liked to read the article but unfortunately, the link brings me to a page which seems to be subscription only, and I can't get past that even if I look up the article from the Miami Herald home page.

 

Well I found a link on which was posted on FB.  So I  could read the article

 

Sometimes if you go to incognito mode on your browser you can read these articles that require a sign in or subscription.

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21 hours ago, C-Dragons said:

Agreed.

Regarding the rapid tests, it has been shown that there are many false positives and false negatives so they are not entirely reliable.

If the scientists can improve the rapid tests, that would be a huge step forward for all of us.

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3 minutes ago, babylene said:

If the scientists can improve the rapid tests, that would be a huge step forward for all of us.

That is definitely a very high priority.  It will happen.  We need to remember that just back 3 months there were essentially no tests for this coronavirus.  Just the fact that both PCR and Antibody tests have been developed and put into widespread use.  And now automated and rapid.  The identification and genome of the virus was released by the Chinese scientists on Jan 9th.  That is actually remarkable progress to date.  As a career scientist in this area I am extremely impressed by the commitment and the speed of the progress.  Unprecedented.  

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1 hour ago, TeeRick said:

We need to remember that just back 3 months there were essentially no tests for this coronavirus. 

 

I need to correct your timeline. PCR for Covid 19 was developed in January already.
By a group of scientist around Prof. Christian Drosten of the Charité in Berlin.

 

In 2003 he was one of the scientists who discovers SARS I, MERS etc.
Brilliant scientist who prefers to keep out of the spotlight as much as possible.

 

Edited by Miaminice
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Only if crew had left the ships in the US.
Their jurisdiction ends when cruise lines take the crew home on their own ships, like they do now.

 

That was one of the reasons why the crew was stuck on board for so long. They weren´t allowed to touch US soil to fly home. The CDC wanted the CEOs to take personal legal responsibility for each and every crew member. 

 

Another result of the limited jurisdiction is that cruise lines could start cruising in other parts of the world - like Asia or Europe. Any place which is ahead in fighting the virus. If you read / listen between the lines of the statements, there´s a fair chance that might be happening.

Edited by Miaminice
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51 minutes ago, Miaminice said:

 

I need to correct your timeline. PCR for Covid 19 was developed in January already.
By a group of scientist around Prof. Christian Drosten of the Charité in Berlin.

 

In 2003 he was one of the scientists who discovers SARS I, MERS etc.
Brilliant scientist who prefers to keep out of the spotlight as much as possible.

 

Ok no problem but my point is that at least in the US we essentially had no approved tests when the pandemic started here and we have come very far very quickly.

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1 hour ago, Miaminice said:

Only if crew had left the ships in the US.
Their jurisdiction ends when cruise lines take the crew home on their own ships, like they do now.

 

That was one of the reasons why the crew was stuck on board for so long. They weren´t allowed to touch US soil to fly home. The CDC wanted the CEOs to take personal legal responsibility for each and every crew member. 

 

Another result of the limited jurisdiction is that cruise lines could start cruising in other parts of the world - like Asia or Europe. Any place which is ahead in fighting the virus. If you read / listen between the lines of the statements, there´s a fair chance that might be happening.

Agreed on both accounts. Looks like the CDC reach is pretty far too, for better or for worse. Yes Europe and Asia look to be opening sooner than the USA.

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On 6/3/2020 at 10:57 AM, cangelmd said:

Based on what we are seeing, I’m a little dubious about any rapid testing, BUT, I also think it very reasonable that the virus would be circulating undetected or underdetected in a population of relatively young healthy people. 

 

If you haven't already seen this info re a fishing trawler with COVID crew who had been 100% tested before departure it's pretty interesting:

 

SEATTLE, WA – (May 31, 2020) American Seafoods Company previously reported that a crew member from the American Dynasty tested positive for COVID-19. As a result, the company decided to test the entire crew and on May 30 an additional 85 crew members were confirmed positive. Results are pending for nine outstanding tests. “The health and safety of our crew, employees, and the communities where we operate is always the top priority for us,” said American Seafoods CEO Mikel Durham. According to Durham, 100% of crew members were screened and tested for COVID-19 antibodies and viral infection before they boarded the vessel. Pre-season tests were conducted through the University of Washington. Only those who tested negative for the virus were cleared to board the vessel. The American Dynasty has returned to the Port of Seattle and is under lockdown. All crew members are being quarantined and monitored by medical personnel.

 

https://www.americanseafoods.com/media/1690/release-5312020-american-seafoods-reports-additional-positive-covid-19-tests-from-crew-members-on-the-american-dynasty.pdf

 

 

A Seattle-based factory trawler cut short its fishing season off the Washington coast after 85 of 126 crew tested positive for COVID-19 in screening results obtained Saturday,  according to a statement released by vessel operator American Seafoods.

<snip>

As part of the effort to keep outbreaks from impacting the seafood industry, the American Dynasty crew, before heading off to sea May 13, were screened for the virus and underwent quarantines. They also underwent additional testing for the antibodies created by the virus.

 

“Only if there were no signs that they were actively infected or contagious were they cleared to board their vessel,” American Seafoods chief executive Mikel Durham said in a written statement.

 

Somehow, the virus still found its way on board.

 

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/american-seafoods-factory-trawler-returns-to-seattle-after-85-crew-members-test-positive-for-covid-19/

 

(If you run into paywall for Seattle Times article I was able to use incognito to view it)

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6 minutes ago, SeaHunt said:

As part of the effort to keep outbreaks from impacting the seafood industry, the American Dynasty crew, before heading off to sea May 13, were screened for the virus and underwent quarantines. They also underwent additional testing for the antibodies created by the virus.

 

“Only if there were no signs that they were actively infected or contagious were they cleared to board their vessel,” American Seafoods chief executive Mikel Durham said in a written statement.

 

Somehow, the virus still found its way on board.

 

Hopefully the local health department and probably UW can do a good epi study on this group. I didn't pull up the article, but has anyone actually gotten sick?

 

This could be (need data) an example of the difficulty of screening for a negative to exclude infection. 

 

A test to find virus in a nasal swab (pretty much any respiratory virus) is going to have the highest probability of a positive result during the period of greatest viral replication. That's almost always (and seems to be here as well) when symptomatic, although it's pretty apparent you can transmit before symptoms. A positive test indicates at least the presence of viral RNA. A negative only means you didn't find viral RNA, either because there's no infection, or the virus is not yet present where you're sampling in sufficient quantities for detection. But there is almost certainly a time after exposure where you're not going to find the virus, but it can replicate and ultimately transmit. 

 

And, it could be that someone who tested negative and was quarantined "pre-mission", actually didn't quarantine...

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1 hour ago, markeb said:

 

Hopefully the local health department and probably UW can do a good epi study on this group. I didn't pull up the article, but has anyone actually gotten sick?

 

The article showed 1 hospitalized so far - I will watch the story to see what happens and will follow up here.

 

It seems to me like the company really tried to avoid this and at least are being transparent about what has happened. I appreciate it because this might actually help the people who can investigate this to see how it came about and thus help us who are (impatiently) waiting to cruise. 

 

Last week, as the vessel docked in Bellingham, one crew member reported feeling sick, tested positive for COVID-19 and was hospitalized. That prompted the company to have the rest of the crew screened, and 85 tested positive in results received  Saturday. Results were still pending for nine crew members, according to a statement released Sunday by American Seafoods.

 

 

A company spokeswoman said none of the crew that tested positive Saturday initially appeared to have symptoms. Two later reported feeling ill.

 

But the son of one crewman said his father described the illness spreading on board while it was still at sea earlier last week off the coast of Washington. The crewman’s son, who requested anonymity to protect the privacy of his family, said his father fell sick with symptoms that included fever and cough, as did others. His father also was frustrated because some crew members were not following protocols that required them to wear masks, according to the son.

 

“We are taking any concerns seriously while the ship was out,” said Suzanne Lagoni, the American Seafoods spokeswoman. “We welcome anyone who wants to call to talk about their experiences. All the crew members were given the cell number of our manager of employee health.”

 

Lagoni said the company is conducting, in cooperation with other agencies, an investigation of the outbreak, and employees’  experiences at sea will be part of the review.

 

The vessel is now moored in Seattle, and crew members who tested positive have been taken on shore, where they are being monitored by medical personnel.

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9 hours ago, Miaminice said:

Only if crew had left the ships in the US.
Their jurisdiction ends when cruise lines take the crew home on their own ships, like they do now.

 

That was one of the reasons why the crew was stuck on board for so long. They weren´t allowed to touch US soil to fly home. The CDC wanted the CEOs to take personal legal responsibility for each and every crew member. 

 

Another result of the limited jurisdiction is that cruise lines could start cruising in other parts of the world - like Asia or Europe. Any place which is ahead in fighting the virus. If you read / listen between the lines of the statements, there´s a fair chance that might be happening.

Over 7500 have been repatriated, through the US, following the CDC rules since the April do not sail order was put into place.

 

As far as the CEO's they are only being held responsible for the attestations being true.  Not legal responsibility for each and every crew member.  They have to to provide information that certain conditions are met and the crew informed.  AS long as they do that they are not legally responsible if the crew member diverts from the planned process.

 

As the CDC puts it on their web site

 

Requiring a signed attestation helps ensure that the information provided by cruise officials as a condition of disembarking or transferring crew is truthful and accurate. By signing the legal attestation documents, cruise line officials certify that the information they provided to CDC is truthful and accurate. 

 

CDC requires cruise lines to sign an attestation form to verify that the information they provide to CDC is true and accurate. Legal penalties would only be applied if the cruise line knowingly submitted a false statement, which could pose further risk to the public’s health.

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1 hour ago, markeb said:

And, it could be that someone who tested negative and was quarantined "pre-mission", actually didn't quarantine...

 

... surely not ...

 

- Joel

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4 hours ago, npcl said:

Over 7500 have been repatriated, through the US, following the CDC rules since the April do not sail order was put into place.

 

As far as the CEO's they are only being held responsible for the attestations being true.  Not legal responsibility for each and every crew member.  They have to to provide information that certain conditions are met and the crew informed.  AS long as they do that they are not legally responsible if the crew member diverts from the planned process.


I suggest that you read the original wording of the CDC regulation which all cruise line CEOs refused to sign.

 

It meant they were personally being held responsible for each and every crew member’s behaviour until they reached their home country. The guidelines were so strict that they couldn’t be followed.

 

That’s the reason why nothing happened for a long time.

 

I am the CEO of a company of just 50 people and I can tell you that I would not have signed those contracts for 50 people. 
 

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As discussed at the time, the cruise line CEOs were trying to play the usual hardball they usually get away with but this time the regulators pushed back because there had been so many lies from the executives related to the entire situation.  They always had the option of sailing their ships to another country to deal with someone else's rules.  It is not unreasonable to expect the cruise line executives to actually make sure their employees follow the established protocols to get them out of the U.S. and on their way.  Otherwise, they'd just point to a memo that no one followed and say they did all they could.  These are the types of requirements introduced when one cannot be trusted to do the right thing.

 

 

 

 

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The American Seafoods Company story is of course anecdotal at this point, but very interesting nonetheless.  I'll be interested to see what is learned.  It does point to the concerns raised by others when talking about a return to leisure cruising.  Hard to hang your hat on a safe process when the current tests are often not accurate, and there is still a lot to be learned about the virus itself (like if the 14 day quarantine is even the right amount of time).  Combine that with people who refuse to do their part in limiting spread, and it's a potential recipe for disaster, especially in a closed environment like a ship. 

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