Cruise lines will no longer be required to follow COVID guidelines on ships as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC’s framework for the conditional navigation order, which was extended and changed in October, will expire on Saturday, when the health agency’s COVID guidelines for cruise ships become voluntary, the CDC confirmed to USA TODAY Wednesday. This means that cruise lines can choosewhether or not to follow the health agency’s guidelines.
The health agency “is moving to a voluntary COVID-19 risk mitigation program,” the CDC said in a statement shared by spokesperson David Daigle.
The program includes tips and recommendations to keep cruise ships operating in a way that promotes a safer and healthier environment for passengers, crew and affected communities, according to the CDC.
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“Cruise ships operating in US waters choosing to participate in the program on a voluntary basis agree to follow all recommendations and guidance issued by the CDC under this program,” the CDC continued, noting that the recommendations are aimed at reduce the spread of COVID.
Ships operating in US waters and sailing on international routes that choose not to participate will be classified as “gray” on the health agency’s “Cruise Ship Color Status” website to indicate that the CDC has not. examined the health and safety protocols put in place by it. the operator of the vessel. Cruise ships that opt out and only sail in U.S. waters will not be listed at all.
The CDC has relayed information about the voluntary program to members of the cruise industry and expects cruise lines to indicate whether or not they will participate “in the coming week.”
As of Monday, reported COVID cases were up 53% from the previous week, with an average of more than 750,000 new infections per day, according to a USA TODAY analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University.
The CDC added that more information on the voluntary program will be released on Saturday, when the CSO expires.
The story continues below.
CSO expires following CDC travel warning
Order, firstannounced in October 2020, was created by the CDC to set out a phased approach to the safe resumption of cruising in U.S. waters.
The CSO’s expiration comes just over two weeks after the CDC issued a cruise travel warning on December 30 after clusters of COVID-19 cases emerged on ships departing from the United States and of the whole world.
The Cruise Lines International Association, the cruise industry’s leading trade organization, said Wednesday that the CDC’s decision to go ahead with its OSC’s transition to a voluntary program recognizes that the cruise industry has maintained an “unwavering commitment” to COVID mitigation.
“Cruising is the only segment of travel and tourism that requires extremely high levels of vaccination (around 100% compared to only 63% of the US population) before boarding for passengers and crew. 100% on every individual (21 times the rate of the United States on earth), ”CLIA said in a statement shared by Bari Golin-Blaugrund, CLIA vice president of strategic communications.
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The organization continued that cases are identified as a result of “high frequency” testing and that the protocols in place help contain the spread of COVID on board. The cruise industry is also the only travel industry that has continuously monitored, collected and reported information on COVID cases to the CDC, the CLIA added.
CLIA said the industry will continue to “be driven by science and the principle of putting people first.”
While it doesn’t appear that CDC regulations will curb the industry or shut it down like it did in March 2020, cruise lines have taken their own action on the omicron, including canceling crossings.
Royal Caribbean International announced on Friday that it would suspend operations on multiple ships due to COVID-19, canceling some crossings and delaying a ship’s return to the cruise. And Norwegian Cruise Line canceled cruises on several of its ships last week as COVID-19 continues to increase with the emergence of the omicron variant.
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Contribution: Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY