Health and Science

CDC director says Covid cases on cruise ships surged 30-fold in two weeks

Key Points
  • Cruise ships have seen a 30-fold increase in positive Covid-19 cases in the past two weeks, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a Senate hearing Tuesday.
  • The stark increase in cases comes after the agency warned against cruise ship travel, regardless of passengers' vaccination status.
  • Ships operating in U.S. waters reported about 5,000 Covid cases from Dec. 15 through Dec. 29. Walensky didn't provide updated figures on Tuesday.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention testifies during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing to examine the federal response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and new emerging variants at Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S. January 11, 2022.
Shawn Thew | Reuters

Cruise ships have seen a 30-fold increase in Covid-19 cases over two weeks due to the highly contagious omicron variant, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a Senate hearing Tuesday.

The stark increase in cases comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned against cruise ship travel, regardless of passengers' vaccination status.

In the first two weeks of December, 162 cases were reported aboard vessels. But as cases continued to mount across the globe, cruise lines disclosed more outbreaks. Ships operating in U.S. waters reported about 5,000 Covid cases to the CDC from Dec. 15 through Dec. 29.

Walensky didn't provide updated figures on cases aboard cruise ships during Tuesday's hearing.

So far, certain ships have been operating under the CDC's conditional sailing order, which sets safety procedures like mandated testing for foreign-operated cruise ships operating in American waters. That order has been in place with slight modifications since October 2020.

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Walensky said she doesn't believe the order, which is due to end on Jan. 15, will be renewed. Instead, the agency expects to shift to a voluntary program, working alongside cruise lines.

The CDC director said she hopes "the cruise ship industries will continue to understand that this is a really safe practice for those industries."

"What I can't predict is what the summer will bring," she added.