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The Norwegian Breakaway cruise ship. Photo: Gerard Bottino/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday said it is actively investigating or observing 91 cruise ships following COVID-19 outbreaks on board.

Why it matters: The Omicron variant has driven up infections across the U.S., upending vacation plans and disrupting travel. The new strain is the latest sign of the pandemic's hold on the cruise line industry.

  • The industry, which was an early epicenter for coronavirus outbreaks, staged a comeback in September, with several preventative measures in place to curb the spread of the virus.

Driving the news: The CDC is investigating 26 ships and is observing 65 ships following earlier investigations, according to the agency's latest update.

  • The affected cruise lines include Disney, Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian.
  • The CDC also said Thursday that passengers should "avoid cruise ships, regardless of vaccination status," citing an increased threat of COVID-19.

Worth noting: An additional three ships are being monitored due to reported COVID infections, though case numbers are below the agency's threshold to start an investigation — cases reported in more than 0.10% of passengers or a single crew member in the previous seven days.

What they're saying: "The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and our members ... continue to have very productive dialogue and are working together with the CDC in the interest of public health and safety," Anne Madison, a spokesperson for the Cruise Lines International Association, said in a statement.

  • "Many of our members have announced additional measures in response to the Omicron variant, including strengthening testing, masking and other requirements, as well as encouraging booster vaccine doses for those eligible—and some cruise lines are requiring an additional test at embarkation," she added.

Go deeper: CDC: Avoid cruise ships regardless of COVID vaccination status

Editor's note: This story has been updated with new numbers from the CDC and comment from the Cruise Lines International Association.

Go deeper

Jan 15, 2022 - Health

Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron

Three COVID-19 testing companies place testing locations outside Grand Central Terminal on Jan. 14 in New York City. Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Experts are warning that subsequent COVID-19 variants are likely to come after Omicron, AP reports.

Why it matters: The warnings come as there's no guarantee that subsequent variants "will cause milder illness or that existing vaccines will work against them," underscoring the need for widespread vaccination, AP writes.

45 million Americans under winter storm watches near New England

Computer model projection showing the winds moving around the powerful East Coast storm on Saturday Jan. 29, 2022. Image: https://earth.nullschool.net

Nearly 45 million Americans are under winter weather alerts and warnings from North Carolina to northeastern Maine Thursday night, as a major winter storm threatens the region.

Why it matters: It is predicted to be the biggest blizzard since 2018 to strike the Northeast with more than 2 feet of snow possible in parts of eastern Massachusetts, according to the National Weather Service.

Judge nixes Gulf of Mexico oil leases in climate-focused ruling

Tug boats prepare to tow the semi-submersible drilling platform Noble Danny Adkins through the Port Aransas Channel into the Gulf of Mexico on December 12, 2020 in Port Aransas, Texas. Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

A federal judge on Thursday canceled the Biden administration's late 2021 sale of new oil-and-gas drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

Why it matters: The ruling that the greenhouse gas emissions analysis by the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) was insufficient is a win for green groups that challenged the decision, as they seek to curb fossil fuel production.

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