U.S. State Department warns against traveling by cruise ship during coronavirus outbreak

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(The Miami Herald) – The U.S. State Department is warning U.S. citizens not to take cruises, delivering what could be a major blow to one of South Florida’s largest industries.

In a travel advisory issued Sunday evening, the State Department saidthere is an increased risk of infection of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, on cruise ships.

“U.S. citizens, particularly travelers with underlying health conditions, should not travel by cruise ship.”

The announcements are direct contradictions of statements made Saturday by Vice President Mike Pence, who traveled to Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale to reassure cruise company CEOs that cruising would continue, albeit with ramped-up screening and sanitizing protocols to be announced in the coming days.

“American people value our cruise line industry, it brings great joy and great entertainment value for Americans,” he said. “We want to ensure Americans can continue to enjoy the opportunities of the cruise line industry.”

Pence is charged with overseeing the federal response to the novel coronavirus, which has infected more than 500 people in the U.S. Twenty-one people in the U.S. have died of COVID-19, including two in Florida.

The government warning against cruising comes after coronavirus outbreaks on two cruise ships, both owned by Miami-based Carnival Corp. The Grand Princess ship, which has 21 cases of the virus, 19 of them crew members, is expected to dock in Oakland, California Monday after five days idling off the coast. The Diamond Princess ship saw nearly 700 people contract the virus on board while quarantined in Japan in February.

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