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17 days: That’s how long the coronavirus survived on infected cruise ship surfaces, CDC says

The Centers for Disease Control says outbreaks on cruises resulted in more than 1,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Credit: AP
A sign declaring a security warning is seen on the port side of the Grand Princess cruise ship while docked at the Port of Oakland on Friday, March 13, 2020, in Oakland, Calif. The cruise ship was nearing the end of a tedious, days-long process of removing 2,000 passengers after more than 20 people on board had been diagnosed with the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

ATLANTA — There’s no such thing as social distancing on a cruise ship. Food often comes in the form of buffets, the casinos and pools are packed to the brim and most cabins could be confused for walk-in closets.

So, if someone on board comes down with a highly-contagious virus, it’s all too easy for it to spread – and spread quickly.

The Centers for Disease Control released a report detailing coronavirus outbreaks on ships that resulted in more than 1,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases. According to the CDC, the vast majority of infections – more than 800 – happened aboard the Diamond Princess and the Grand Princess.

Credit: AP
A Coast Guard patrol boat keeps watch on the Grand Princess cruise ship while docked at the Port of Oakland Wednesday, March 11, 2020, in Oakland, Calif. After days of being forced to idle off the Northern California coast, the ship docked Monday at Oakland with about 3,500 passengers and crew, including some who tested positive for the new virus. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

That disturbing realization led the national health agency to first recommend against cruise travel to Asia – then urge Americans to avoid going on cruises altogether – until the coronavirus pandemic is over.

The CDC says COVID-19 was passed among crew members from ship to ship across “multiple voyages” and spread to hundreds of passengers. According to the CDC, close quarters on ships partially explains the “high attack rate” among passengers and crew, but it’s not the only factor.

Researchers found, before the ships were disinfected, COVID-19 survived on surfaces in cabins for up to 17 days after everyone disembarked.

Since the outbreaks, which killed at least 10 people, cruise companies have voluntarily suspended operations.

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