Video source: YouTube, CBS Miami
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) extended its COVID-19 safety regulations for the cruise ship industry into January, citing concerns over the highly contagious Delta variant and breakthrough cases among fully vaccinated travelers.
Under the current measures, called a conditional sailing order, cruise lines have been permitted to operate as long as they adhere to certain precautions, such as requiring vaccinations or testing of crew and passengers as well as face masks onboard.
The order which was to expire on Nov. 1, will now remain in effect through Jan. 15, the CDC said Monday. After that, the CDC plans to shift to a voluntary program for cruise lines to detect and control the spread of the virus on ships.
Capt. Aimee Treffiletti, who heads up the CDC’s maritime unit, said the decision to temporarily extend the order was made “in the best interest of public health.”
"The pandemic isn't over. We've seen what the delta variant can do," Treffiletti said. "Despite, you know, really what have been the best efforts of the cruise industry to provide a safer and healthier environment for crew, passengers and communities, COVID-19 has still been a challenge, particularly with the delta variant."
All foreign-flagged cruises carrying at least 250 passengers must abide by the order and give the CDC access to their vessels and passenger health records upon request to ensure compliance.
Cruise lines that fail to secure a COVID-19 Conditional Sailing Certificate from the CDC will be barred from operating in US waters, the agency said.
The CDC imposed a no-sail order for cruise lines in March 2020, shortly after the onset of the pandemic. Five months later, it issued technical guidelines that laid out a phased approach for the safe resumption of cruising in US waters.
The framework offered cruise lines two paths for restarting options. They could either run a simulated voyage to test the effectiveness of their new pandemic-era safety protocols or require at least 95% of both crew and passengers to be fully vaccinated before receiving the OK to operate normal cruises.
Cruising has since restarted in numerous US ports, including Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Port Canaveral, New York, Los Angeles and Seattle.
On Monday, an industry trade group pledged to continue working with the CDC on health measures on board ships.
In a statement to USA Today, the Cruise Lines International Association said, “Cruising has successfully resumed in the United States, with leading public health measures that have enabled our ocean-going cruise line members to effectively mitigate the risk of COVID-19 amongst cruise passengers, crewmembers and destinations.”
The return of the US cruise industry, which was among the hardest hit by the public health crisis, has been filled with legal twists and turns ever since Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — staying squarely on brand — vowed to fight against the CDC’s safety procedures.
The editorial board of The Miami Herald ripped into DeSantis earlier this week, citing his ceaseless efforts to ban vaccine mandates. His latest move has been to call a legislative session to undermine federal requirements that some workers be vaccinated against the coronavirus.
The editors wrote, "We thought things couldn’t get much worse in DeSantis’ handling of the pandemic, but we were wrong — then we were wrong again."
COVID-19 has killed nearly 60,000 Floridians to date.
Source: Equities News