By Rebecca Smith
Cruise-ship workers suffered from more confirmed cases of
Covid-19 than passengers, according to newly released government
data, suggesting that a slow, arduous process for repatriating
idled crew members increased their exposure to the contagious
Crew members also had more cases of "Covid-like illness" of
undetermined cause than passengers, according to the data released
Friday to The Wall Street Journal.
Most cruise ships disembarked passengers in March and April, as
cruising wound down due to the pandemic. It was difficult for crew
members to get off ships due to barriers including closed borders,
lengthy quarantine periods and the logistical difficulty of
securing the necessary charter and commercial flights.
More than two out of every three Covid-19 infections confirmed
through testing, at 69%, involved crew members, according to the
data released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention. An even larger percentage of cases of "Covid-like
illness" involved ships' employees, at 71%. Passengers, of course,
were far more numerous than crew, early in the pandemic, but they
were on ships for shorter periods.
The information provided by the CDC shows that some ships had
their last Covid-19 case as recently as June 21, long after the
cruise lines stopped taking passengers.
Passengers, who were generally older than crew members, died in
greater numbers than crew members, with 21 passenger deaths versus
12 crew deaths, according to the CDC, the agency that looks out for
the health of Americans.
The data, which covered 121 vessels, came from cruise-line
reports and public health officials' counts and covered the period
from March 1 to June 23, for what the CDC described as ships in the
U.S. jurisdiction, though not always in U.S. waters. Some cases of
infection on cruise ships, identified when people returned to their
home countries, didn't appear to have been included, according to
the Journal's analysis.
Of those on the CDC's list, the ships with the most confirmed
cases of Covid-19 and Covid-like illness, combined, according to
the data, were Disney Cruise Line's Wonder and four Carnival Corp.
ships: the Zaandam, the Grand Princess, the Valor and the Coral
Princess. Together, they accounted for more than one-third of the
CDC's total of confirmed and possible cases, at 990 of 2,902.
The five ships with the most confirmed Covid-19 cases were the
Wonder, the Grand Princess, the Valor, Royal Caribbean Cruises'
Celebrity Eclipse and Carnival Corp.'s Freedom, according to the
The most deaths were tied to the Grand Princess, the Zaandam and
the Coral Princess according to the CDC, with a total of 17
passenger deaths and three crew deaths, or 20 out of 33 fatalities
overall, the data indicates.
The data excludes hundreds of ships with itineraries outside the
U.S., including some with significant Covid-19 outbreaks, such as
the Diamond Princess and Ruby Princess, whose problems surfaced in
Japan and Australia, respectively.
Roger Frizzell, spokesman for Carnival, said his company has "no
argument on the numbers tied to positive test results, but
completely disagrees with the concept of 'suspected cases' since
this is not medically valid or accurate." He added that equating
symptoms of Covid-19 with the illness, itself, is "nothing but pure
He added that Carnival, which operates cruise brands including
Princess Cruises and Holland America, has repatriated more than
77,000 crew members and therefore the infection rate, if anything,
"showcases that our protocol in place on our ships has largely been
successful" in preventing even greater spread of the virus.
Disney said it tested all crew members on the Wonder in early
May, amounting to nearly 750 people, and that this widespread
testing may partly explain the seemingly high number of positive
cases on the ship, which the CDC pegged at 227.
Disney said more than half of the Wonder crew who tested
positive had no symptoms, so without testing it wouldn't have known
these individuals needed to be isolated to protect other crew
members. It said it hasn't had any new infections on the Wonder
Royal Caribbean declined to comment.
--Andrea Fuller contributed to this article.
Write to Rebecca Smith at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
July 11, 2020 13:10 ET (17:10 GMT)
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