Four Cases So Far – More to Come?
Yesterday morning, one guest on the Jewel of the Seas tested positive for COVID-19 after PCR testing. He was initially isolated in his stateroom after the positive test results. He was later moved to the ship’s “red zone,” which is a designated stateroom on Deck 4 forward.
By yesterday evening, three additional guests, believed to be part of the infected guest’s traveling goup, tested positive after PCR testing aboard the Royal Caribbean cruise ship. Contact tracing is now in progress for those guests who were in close contact with the infected guest as well as those crewmembers who served the passengers on the ship. Guests from fourteen staterooms (double ocupacy) are being tested as part of the contact tracing and they remain isolated in their original staterooms under monitoring by the ship’s security.
Jewel of the Seas Has a History of Positive COVID-19 Cases
This information is being provided by a knowledgeable crew member who wishes to remain anonymous out of fear that he/she might be terminated. The crew member has provided reliable information like this since July of this year. In mid-November we wrote:
. . . there has been a continuous number of COIVD-19 cases on this ship for the past six weeks as the ship sailed the Greek Isles from its home port of Limassol, Cyprus. There have been over a hundred positive cases involving guests and crew members on the Jewel of the Seas during this time period, including eight crew members who tested positive as the ship sailed across the Atlantic to South Florida to begin sailing Western Caribbean cruises from Miami.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a Cruise Ship Color Status Report which shows those cruise ships with reported cases of COVID-19 which, in turn, are either below the threshold for CDC investigation or have met the threshold for CDC investigation.
We wrote that “it remains likely that when the Jewel arrives in Miami, the CDC will place either an orange or yellow color designation for the ship. The CDC did in fact issue a yellow warning on November 16th for the Jewel of the Seas indicating that the Royal Caribbean cruise ship reached the threshold level of COVID-19 cases sufficient for the CDC to initiate an investigation into the disease on the ship.
At least four guests test positive with #Covid_19 on the @RoyalCaribbean #cruise ship Jewel of the Seas sailing now from Cozumel, Mexico to Coco Cay, Bahamas – So why @CDCgov are you posting a green stauts on your COVID-19 Cruise Ship Color Status? pic.twitter.com/17jqH7vyA4
— James (Jim) Walker (@CruiseLaw) December 16, 2021
The color green is limited only to those cruise ships where there are no reported cases of COVID-19 or CLI (COVID like illness). In this case, the CDC erroneously shows the current color status for the Jewel of the Seas to be green.
It is Imperative for the CDC to Release Accurate and Timely Information About Shipboard Diseases
It appears that the CDC has either not been notified of these positive COVID-19 cases, which admittedly occurred only yesterday, or the federal agency has not been provided with accurate reports from this cruise ship. In any event, we have inquired of the CDC why it posted a green status on its COVID-19 Cruise Ship Color Status Report for this ship.
We have expressed our criticism of the CDC’s color code system system as not providing adequate information regarding the breadth of COVID-19 outbreaks on cruise ships. Travelers cannot determine whether there are two or twenty or two hundred COVID-19 cases. For example, last week the Norwegian Breakaway cruise ship experienced what was reported by the Louisiana Department of Health to be seventeen COVID-19 cases, including at least one case involving the Omicron variant. Because the Louisiana Department of Health, unlike Florida, has adopted a policy of transparently reporting data, the public learned the precise number of positive virus cases when the ship returned to New Orleans. (We subsequently determined that there was actually twenty positive cases by the time the NCL cruise ship had sailed to Roatan).
Passengers deciding whether to board the infected ship in New Orleans learned of the outbreak on the previous cruise from press reports of the accurate information released by the Losianna Department of Health. They could then make a reasonably informed decision whether they should risk having their family infected. Anywhere from 150 to 400 (based on different crew member and guest estimates) decided not to board the ship.
You can imagine the confusion if the CDC reported simply that the NCL cruise ship was under either a yellow or orange designation. Concerned guests would be in the dark whether there be two or ten or twenty other guests on the prior cruise infected and they probably would not have learned of the color code for the ship until long after it left New Orleans. And no one would have known that the Norwegian Breakaway was the first cruise ship with a crew member (from South Africa) with the new Omicron variant.
It is inexcusable for the CDC not to have current and accurate information regarding the number of people infected on a cruise ship. To state that the color is green (no cases) when there are in fact positive cases is a disservice to the public. Accurate information from the government is imperative because cruise lines, of course, will make every effort to keep the information secret.
Will the CDC Eventualy Release Accurate Information Before the Jewel of the Seas Leaves On Its Next Cruise?
The current cruise of the Jewel of the Seas is ending on December 18, 2021 in Miami. The Jewel of the Seas departed from Miami on December 12th. It stopped in ports in Quintana Roo, Mexico on December 14th in Costa Maya and in Cozumel on December 15th. The ship is now sailing to Coco Cay in the Bahamas tomorrow. I will eventualy get back to Miami on Saturday. The ship will quickly leave Miami with its next 1,600 guests.
There are likely to be additional positive COVID-19 cases when the contact tracing and additional testing concludes. There is no information, one way or the other, whether the rapidly speading Omicron variant is involved in any of these cases.
Will the CDC release accurate information by the time that new passengers are preparing to board the Jewel of the Seas on December 18th for the next cruise? Can the public finally see detailed accurate reporting, like the data publicly reported by the Louisiana Deaprtment of Health in the Norwegian Breakaway case, regarding the precise number of guests and crew members who tested positive, whether they are symptomatic and whether the Omicon variant is involved?
If you have any comment or questions, please leave one below, or join the discussion on our Facebook page.
December 17, 2021 2:00 P.M. Update: The CDC just update the color designation for the Jewel of the Seas to yellow indicating that the “reported cases of COVID-19 have met the threshold for CDC investigation.
Image credit: Top – Jewel of the Seas Dave souza – CC BY-SA 2.5 commons/wikipedia.