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Freighters in Great Lakes take precautions against virus

by Ace Damon
Freighters in Great Lakes take precautions against virus

CHICAGO (AP) – American and foreign cargo workers are following new protocols and precautionary measures in the Great Lakes region to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The Coast Guard will monitor American and foreign cargo ships that have recently traveled to an area affected by the new virus outbreak in the past 14 days.

Ships will only be allowed to enter the U.S. if they do not carry sick crew members, according to officer Brian McCrum, spokesman for the 9th Coast Guard District, which oversees the Great Lakes region.

Crew members are expected to remain on board the ships upon arrival, except for necessary activities, such as loading or unloading cargo and collecting provisions, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Freighters are expected to pass through more than 100 ports in the Great Lakes region, according to US Customs and Border Protection and industry leaders.

The shipping industry is also following suit with its own safeguards.

James Weakley, president of the Lake Carriers Association, said that the ship's crews should follow the hygiene and social detachment guidelines established by health experts.

"Not only are there formal ramifications, but there is a very informal pressure between our browsers that will prevent people from doing something that is unsafe and potentially causing spread," said Weakley.

The Weakley organization represents 46 American ships that handle 90 million tons of cargo annually in the Great Lakes.

Chicago is the heart of national and international freight in the region. More cargo moves through the Illinois International Port District than any other port on the Great Lakes.

International fleets are also implementing new protocols in response to the outbreak, said Stuart Theis, executive director of the United States' Great Lakes Navigation Association, which represents foreign vessels.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that go away in two to three weeks. For some, especially the elderly and people with existing health problems, it can cause more serious illnesses, including pneumonia and death.

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