CDC extends 'No Sail Order' for cruise ships under US jurisdiction amid coronavirus crisis

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has extended the “No Sail Order” first issued to all cruise ships under U.S. jurisdiction last month, citing continued coronavirus outbreaks on “at least 10 cruise ships” in the past few weeks.

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The CDC’s “No Sail” directive was first issued March 14. At that point, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), which counts dozens of major cruise lines as members, announced the suspension of its cruise ship operations for 30 days.

“We are working with the cruise line industry to address the health and safety of crew at sea as well as communities surrounding U.S. cruise ship points of entry,” said CDC Director Robert Redfield in a media release shared Thursday.  “The measures we are taking today to stop the spread of COVID-19 are necessary to protect Americans, and we will continue to provide critical public health guidance to the industry to limit the impacts of COVID-19 on its workforce throughout the remainder of this pandemic.”

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Under its latest “No Sail” guidelines, the CDC is requiring cruise lines to submit a plan for further prevention of COVID-19 to both the CDC and the U.S. Coast Guard, including plans for responding to further outbreaks with “limited reliance on state, local, and federal government support.”

No ships will be allowed to disembark passengers or crew unless directed by the Coast Guard and under the guidance of the CDC and federal, state and local officials.

The Costa Luminosa was just one of the many cruise ships to experience an outbreak of coronavirus last month.

The Costa Luminosa was just one of the many cruise ships to experience an outbreak of coronavirus last month. (Clement Mahoudeau/AFP via Getty Images)

The order will remain in effect until one of the following three events takes place: the Secretary of Health and Human Services no longer declares COVID-19 a public health emergency; the CDC rescinds its “No Sail” order; or 100 days elapses with no further extension of the order.

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CLIA has since responded, saying its members are being proactive in its plans for the future of the industry, submitting "proposals that are far-reaching in prevention, detection and care," but stopping just short of committing to mandating further suspensions.

"We value our relationship with the U.S. authorities, and will continue to work with these important agencies in our shared commitment and priority for the health and safety of passengers and crew," the CLIA's statement read, in part.

"We are, however, concerned about the unintended consequences of the order in its singling out an industry that has been proactive in its escalation of health and sanitation protocols, including the aforementioned proposals, as well as transparent in its reporting despite numerous challenges beyond the industry’s control. The potential impacts include, but are not limited to, the potential loss to the USA economy of $51 billion and 343,000 lost jobs in the first year alone if we assume the national emergency lasts 1 year (which is how long the last health-related national emergency was for H1N1).

"While it’s easy to focus on cruising because of its high profile, the fact is cruising is neither the source or cause of the virus or its spread.  What is different about the cruise industry is our reporting requirements.  It would be a false assumption to connect a higher frequency in reporting to increased risk/frequency of infection."

The Rotterdam, seen here, was one of two Holland America Line ships to recently dock in Florida following an outbreak of COVID-19 that sickened hundreds of passengers and crew on its sister ship, the Zaandam. The Rotterdam was dispatched to rendezvous with the Zaandam, and provide relief and testing kits in late March.

The Rotterdam, seen here, was one of two Holland America Line ships to recently dock in Florida following an outbreak of COVID-19 that sickened hundreds of passengers and crew on its sister ship, the Zaandam. The Rotterdam was dispatched to rendezvous with the Zaandam, and provide relief and testing kits in late March. (Christina Mendenhall/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Several cruise lines, meanwhile, had already extended the suspension of their operations past the original 30 day period, including those operated by the Carnival Corporation, which include Carnival Cruise Line, Princess Cruises and Holland America, among others, and Royal Caribbean Cruise Ltd., which operates Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises.

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As of Thursday evening, the CDC had reported approximately 100 cruise ships remaining off U.S. coasts with roughly 80,000 crew members still on board, and 20 ships docked or anchored with “known or suspected” outbreaks of coronavirus, the CDC reports.