A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report indicates the strength of the novel coronavirus to live on surfaces for more than two weeks.
The CDC found traces of COVID-19 on surfaces in the cabins of both symptomatic and asymptomatic infected passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship — 17 days after passengers had left the cabins. Of note, the cabins had yet to be disinfected.
While the data doesn't show if transmission occurred from surfaces, the CDC report recommends exploring that further.
The report outlines the responses on board several high-profile cruise ships, including both the Diamond Princess and Grand Princess. Between the ships, there were more than 800 COVID-19 cases that led to 10 deaths.
The CDC found that Diamond Princess passengers transmitted the disease prior to quarantine and crew infections peaked after the quarantine's implementation. As for the Grand Princess: Crew members likely got infected on the ship's first voyage (Feb. 11 to 21, which sailed roundtrip from San Francisco) then gave the disease to passengers on the second. The second trip, when Grand Princess departed San Francisco on Feb. 21, included most of the ship's 1,111 crew and 68 passengers from the initial voyage.
Between Feb. 3 and March 13, the U.S. confirmed about 200 cases of COVID-19 from returned cruise travelers. At least 15 states have reported cases associated with cruise travel to the CDC.
Princess Cruises had a health problem long before back-to-back outbreaks of the new coronavirus on the Diamond and Grand Princess ships.
Their passengers fell sick extraordinarily often. Nearly 5,000 people onboard Princess ships in the past decade have suffered from bouts of vomiting, diarrhea – or both – in numbers widespread enough that government health officials issued alerts on 26 outbreaks.
Yet Princess, with 18 ships in the world's largest cruise company, Carnival Corp., consistently earned high marks on U.S. inspections that were supposed to protect 30 million people taking cruise vacations each year.
A USA TODAY investigation found the high-profile scoring of inspections administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention masks how frequently ships are cited for health and sanitation violations.
Contributing: Letitia Stein, Mike Stucks and Cara Kelly