How the CDC is monitoring COVID-19 cases on cruise ships

The CDC is using a color-coding system

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Coronavirus outbreaks are disrupting travel across the country.

As U.S. airlines have had to cancel or delay thousands of flights over the last few days, several cruise ships have reported outbreaks and are being turned away from ports of call.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is closely monitoring cruise ships via a color-coding system.

Green means a ship has no reported COVID-19 cases.

Orange means the number of reported cases is below the CDC’s threshold for investigation, meaning cases have been reported in less than 0.1% of passengers.

If a ship has a yellow status, it did meet the CDC’s investigation threshold.

And if a ship’s status is red, it’s seen sustained transmission of the coronavirus, or there’s potential for cases to overwhelm onboard medical center resources. At that point, additional public health measures are put in place.

Within the last seven days, at least two cruise ships saw outbreaks. The Carnival Freedom returned Sunday to Miami after a small number of people tested positive on board. The Freedom was supposed to stop at the Caribbean islands of Bonaire and Arbua, but those stops were canceled after being denied entry.

Ashley Petersons says she was on board.

“The passengers we know that had COVID were basically posting on Facebook that they were COVID positive,” she said. “There were definitely plenty of people who were continuing to cruise like normal. For me personally, I was spending more time in my stateroom and staying on the outside areas of the ship and trying to avoid the indoor areas.”

Royal Caribbean’s Odyssey of the Seas also returned Sunday to Fort Lauderdale after several fully vaccinated passengers and crew members tested positive for the coronavirus. Planned stops for that ship were also canceled.

Since returning to port, the CDC has taken both the Freedom and the Odyssey of the Seas off of red status and put them back on yellow status. That means both ships will remain under observation.

If you’ve booked a cruise, it may behoove you to check to see where your ship stands in terms of an outbreak. The CDC makes it easy to do. By going to its website, you’ll find that cruise liners and their vessels are rated using a color code system.

Coronavirus outbreaks are disrupting travel across the country. As U.S. airlines have had to cancel or delay thousands of flights over the last few days, several cruise ships have reported outbreaks and are being turned away from ports of call. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is closely monitoring cruise ships via a color-coding system.

RELATED: More cruise ships under CDC investigation due to COVID-19 cases

Despite the travel disruptions, cruise industry experts don’t think the industry as a whole will be forced to shut down again.

″I think this is just a temporary thing that’s happening right now,” said Scott Lara, a cruise travel agent known in the industry as the “Cruise Genius.” “I think the cruise industry is going to come back stronger than before.”

Lara also wanted to remind people cruise ships now have HEPA filters, which are designed to remove airborne pathogens. They also have masking and vaccinations are required. Lara hopes to send a message that despite investigations, the number of people infected aboard a cruise ship remains low. He said following the precautions is always important.

Meanwhile, cruise ships carrying passengers who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 will be allowed to dock at Mexican ports. Those who have or are showing symptoms of the coronavirus will also be able to receive medical attention in Mexico.

As for the Carnival Ecstasy, the only cruise ship that sets sail out of Jacksonville, the CDC currently has it as orange status. But when News4JAX checked Carnival’s website, it looked like the cruise line plans for the Ecstasy to sail again on March 7, 2022.

Whether you’re planning to get on a cruise or visit an all-inclusive resort, Lara said, you’re advised to still buy travel insurance.


About the Authors:

Joy Purdy co-anchors the 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. newscasts with Tarik Minor and the 11 p.m. weeknight newscasts with Kent Justice.

Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.