The U.S. Coast Guard has issued new guidelines for cruise ships seeking to send sick passengers to medical facilities in the U.S. The rules come amid an increasing number of requests to evacuate people from ships stationed in or near U.S. territorial waters.
In a memo published earlier this week, the Coast Guard said the rules were necessary to prevent shore-side medical facilities from being overwhelmed. Under the guidelines, foreign passenger vessels with more than 50 people aboard must now prepare to treat patients for "an indefinite period of time."
For example, ships must seek medical support elsewhere before requesting it from the Coast Guard, even if they're owned by a U.S. company. They must also submit daily reports about their coronavirus caseloads.
If a patient is approved for transfer, cruise lines would be responsible for arranging all transportation and hospital beds. At least 17 ships are currently treading water near South Florida, with more than a dozen reportedly doing the same miles offshore.