CDC Issues Framework For Resuming Cruises
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a framework for the safe and responsible resumption of passenger operations on cruise ships. The Framework for Conditional Sailing Order introduces a phased approach to start cruise operations again.
The Framework will focus on working towards preventing the further spread of COVID-19 on cruise ships and from passengers and crew on cruise ships to ports and communities they live in.
According to the new guidelines, cruise ship operators must initially demonstrate adherence to testing, quarantine and isolation, and social distancing requirements to protect crew members while they build the laboratory capacity needed to test crew and passengers.
The next phases will include simulated (mock) voyages with volunteers playing the role of passengers to test cruise ship operators’ ability to mitigate COVID-19 risk, certification for ships that meet specific requirements. Finally, the return to passenger voyages in a manner that mitigates COVID-19 risk among passengers, crew members, and communities.
The Order applies to passenger operations on cruise ships with capacity of 250 passengers in waters subject to U.S. jurisdiction.
Surveillance data from March 1 through September 29, 2020, showed at least 3,689 COVID-19 or COVID-like illness cases on cruise ships in U.S. waters, in addition to at least 41 reported deaths.
Recent passenger voyages in foreign countries continue to have outbreaks, despite cruise ship operators having extensive health and safety protocols. The current evidence suggests that cruise ship travel facilitates and amplifies transmission of COVID-19, even at reduced passenger level.
It would likely spread the disease into U.S. communities if passenger operations were to resume in the United States without public health oversight.
Cruise operations in the U.S. have been suspended for nearly eight months now after the CDC issued the first ‘No Sail Order’ on March 14, which was initially for three months, but was extended a couple of times until now. The CLIA also has been voluntarily extending the suspension of cruise operations from U.S. ports.
Though the CDC has not extended the No Sail Order, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), which represents 95% of global ocean-going cruise capacity, said its members have agreed to maintain the ongoing voluntary suspension of cruise operations in the U.S. through December 31, 2020.
CLIA noted that its members will use the remainder of the year to prepare for the implementation of extensive measures to address COVID-19 safety with the guidance of outside public health experts and the CDC. It plans for a gradual and highly-controlled return of cruise operations in the U.S.
The cruise industry is a vital economic artery in the United States, generating over $53 billion in annual economic activity and supporting 421,000 American jobs spanning almost every sector.
It is estimated that the suspension of cruise operations from mid-March until now, has resulted in a loss of more than $25 billion in economic activity and over 164,000 American jobs.
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