The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it is actively investigating or observing at least 86 cruise ships as of Tuesday amid widening concern over the highly contagious Omicron variant.
A color-coded list on the CDC’s website detailed the extent of COVID-19 outbreaks on each of the ships and the status of the agency’s investigation.
The CDC launches an investigation if a ship reports COVID-19 cases in 0.10 percent or more of its passengers. If a ship has 6,500 passengers, an investigation would begin if seven or more cases are reported.
The list published on the CDC’s website includes cruise ships operated by major companies such as Carnival Corp., Disney, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean.
Shares of the top cruise line operators sank earlier in the week amid COVID-related interruptions.
The latest spike in Omicron cases marked another setback for the cruise industry. Cruises resumed sailing in June with enhanced safety protocols after a months-long shutdown during the COVID-19 pandemic.
During a CDC investigation, federal officials conduct contact tracing and gather data on vaccination. The agency also provides medical support and assists in limiting the virus’ spread aboard the ship.
A rise in infections on cruise ships also prompted renewed scrutiny from lawmakers. US Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) called for the CDC to halt sailings in response to the Omicron variant.
“Our warnings have proved sadly prescient & continuously compelling. Time for CDC & cruise lines to protect consumers & again pause—docking their ships. Cruises are repeating recent history as petri dishes of COVID infection,” Blumenthal wrote on Twitter.
The Omicron surge has impacted holiday travel plans. Aside from the complications for cruise operators, major US airlines were forced to cancel thousands of flights this week amid staffing shortages.