CDC Continues to Block the Restarting of American Cruising
Under increased pressure from travel groups and after an overt threat from Florida’s Governor and Attorney General the U.S. Centers for Disease Control announced that it has finally issued the next phase of guidance that will allow cruises to some day resume sailing from U.S. ports. The CDC stated that the new guidelines do not replace the “Framework for Conditional Sailing” that went into effect October 30 even though they have yet to provide specific instructions regarding test cruises. Instead this signals additional new procedures that will be necessary in order to begin those required test cruises.
The new requirements added to the Framework for Conditional Sailing, require cruise lines intending to sail out of American ports to demonstrate they have the necessary infrastructure in place to manage an onboard outbreak and contract for healthcare capacity and housing for quarantining of known or suspected cases of COVID-19 in each port the ship visits. In addition ships must certify they can provide routine onboard testing of crew and passengers and develop plans to incorporate vaccination strategies for crew along with port workers to reduce the risk of infection and spread of COVID-19 throughout each ship. It also requires that cruise companies shift from weekly to daily reporting of COVID-19 cases and all other illness onboard ships.
The requirement for a ship with a suspected case of COVID-19 to suspend operations has decreased from 28 days down to 14 days. The CDC has now provided firm guidance for the implementation of testing all crew based on a suspected case onboard, along with the need for cruise lines to establish a plan and timeline for vaccination of all crew and port personnel. Most cruise lines have already started requiring passengers and crew to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to board.
Required by the CDC last October they have still not provided the details for those test cruises for the restart of cruse operations. No timeline has yet to be offered but the press release did state, “The next phase of the CSO will include simulated (trial) voyages that will allow crew and port personnel to practice new COVID-19 operational procedures with volunteers before sailing with passengers, the CDC remains committed to working with the cruise industry and seaport partners to resume cruising when it is safe to do so, following the phased approach outlined in the CSO.”
The CDC further notes that COVID-19 vaccination efforts will play a large part in the safe resumption of operations within the United States, and urges eligible port personnel, passengers and crew to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as they are able to. They also note that “Cruising safely and responsibly during a global pandemic is difficult, while cruising will always pose some risk of COVID-19 transmission, following the phases of the CSO will ensure cruise ship passenger operations are conducted in a way that protects crew members, passengers, and port personnel, particularly with emerging COVID-19 variants of concern.”
Doesn’t it seem odd that while airlines distribute people farther, faster and in much larger numbers around the country and world, the CDC has been less interested in providing policies that would be as disruptive to air passenger travel. In fact there are experts that believe travel restrictions on air travel have not been strong enough.