The U.S. Coast Guard continues to oversee periodic medevac operations for cruise ships waiting off the coast of Florida. Over the weekend, Coast Guard watchstanders in Miami and St. Petersburg, Florida coordinated three at-sea cruise ship medevacs for seafarers with influenza-like illnesses - one from the Celebrity Infinity and two from the Oasis of the Seas.
Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg watchstanders oversaw the medevac of one Celebrity Infinity crewmember with COVID-19-like symptoms. The cruise ship’s small boat tender transported the crewmember ashore for further transport to a local area hospital. A Coast Guard Station St. Petersburg response boat crew escorted the tender ashore.
Coast Guard Sector Miami watchstanders oversaw the medevac of two Oasis of the Seas crewmembers with COVID-19-like symptoms in a similar operaton.
In each case, a Coast Guard 7th District flight surgeon was consulted for an assessment of the medical necessity of the medevacs. The USCG conducted the medevacs in consultation with the CDC, the Florida Department of Health and local hospitals in order to carry out the operations without spreading COVID-19.
The magnitude of the potential medevac volume is daunting: there are more than 35 cruise ships with 35,000 crew members aboard in U.S. territorial waters around Florida, not counting vessels outside of the 12-nm line. Given the size of this population and the potential for overwhelming South Florida's shoreside hospitals with seafarer COVID-19 cases, the Coast Guard's 7th District has asked cruise ship operators to provide more onboard treatment resources for crewmembers.
"The entire DHS team is working together to ensure no seafarer will be left untreated during this emergency to the best of our collective ability, however, proactive measures are critical to ensuring our limited search and rescue resources and already stressed shore-side medical services do not get over-burdened," said Rear Adm. Eric C. Jones, commander of the 7th District. "This emergency situation requires cruise ships to take additional measures to be reasonably self-sufficient in these emergency circumstances through improved on board medical care and protocols and pre-approved medical transport procedures."
The Coast Guard 7th District also oversaw two other medevacs this weekend, one unrelated COVID-19 emergency from an anchored cruise ship near Miami and one from a pleasure craft vessel near Cape Canaveral.
CDC publishes list of cruise voyages associated with COVID-19
Over the past three weeks, the U.S. Coast Guard has helped oversee passenger disembarkations from 120 cruise ships nationwide, facilitating the safe return of 250,000 passengers. The CDC has released a new, nearly-comprehensive list of U.S. cruise ship voyages that have been linked to passenger cases of COVID-19, including 11 voyages in which COVID-19-positive guests had symptoms while on board.
The first U.S. voyage associated with COVID-19 was a sailing of the Carnival Vista from February 15-22, and the last was a sailing of the Celebrity Eclipse from March 2-30, according to the CDC.
The list does not include the voyage of the cruise ship Zaandam, which ended early in Fort Lauderdale after multiple passengers tested positive for COVID-19.
* indicates a voyage in which CDC was informed of a COVID-19 positive case on board while under way