Cruises With Sick Passengers on Board Must Stay at Sea, U.S. Coast Guard Says

man with thermometer in his mouth
Photo by Claus Rebler/CC BY-SA 2.0

Cruise ships out at sea with sick passengers must expand their medical capabilities, effective immediately. That is according to the United States Coast Guard, which issued a safety bulletin to foreign vessels with 50 or more passengers impacted by COVID-19.

The Coast Guard says an uptick in the number of foreign passenger vessels requiring ILI (influenza-like illness) medical evaluations can overwhelm local medical resources throughout the Seventh District Area of Responsibility (AOR). For example, medical facilities in the Port of Miami have reached maximum capacity and can no longer attend to additional medical evacuations (MEDEVACs). Cruises that need to evacuate their passengers must abide by a specific set of procedures. 

"To facilitate safe and effective MEDEVACs of those exhibiting ILI, vessels requesting such evacuations shall communicate with either the Joint Rescue Coordination Center (JRCC) Miami or JRCC San Juan to consult with a Coast Guard flight surgeon who will determine medical needs for each concerned crew member," said the Coast Guard in the statement. 

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A MEDIVAC will be considered through concurrence by the Coast Guard Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator, and only if a hospital facility confirms its availability. 

"If a MEDEVAC is deemed necessary by the Coast Guard flight surgeon, the vessel owner or operator will be required to secure commercial transportation ashore, confirm the availability of medical services with local medical facilities, and coordinate a private ambulance prior to the CG SMC authorizing the evacuation." 

Vessels with sick passengers within U.S. territorial seas must continuously report hazardous conditions to the Captain of the Port, including sick persons and fatalities. Those who do not provide reports, including the number and condition of any and all ill persons aboard daily, could be subject to civil penalties or criminal prosecution. 

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