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March 4, 2024

Amid rising Covid-19 cases, CDC will switch to voluntary health protocols for cruise ships

By Priti Naik

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed that the cruise ships that are departing from the ports will be transitioned to a new voluntary health and safety program. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky admitted that the agency has seen a 30-fold increase in Covid-19 cases aboard cruise ships in past two weeks because of omicron. CDC also mentioned that it received reports of nearly 5,000 covid cases aboard the 110 cruise ships that they are currently monitoring.

Under the new voluntary program, the CDC expects that the cruise lines should vaccinate its crew and 95% of passengers. It needs to implement stricter health protocols and continue steps such as wearing masks in public areas of the ships. The agency will continue to review the cruise line’s health protocols and receive reports of the virus aboard the ships. Ships that do not provide their health protocols to the CDC however will be identified in the color-coding system while the other elements of the program will continue.

Amid the rising concern and high rate of infection across U.S. many ships have taken upon itself to adjust their operations. The Royal Caribbean International announced that it was temporarily removing three of its ships from service. Norwegian Cruise Line also cancelled additional cruises scheduling it to resume sailing at the end of January. Meanwhile, other ships delayed their scheduled returns to operations. Holland America Line also canceled a cruise due to sail on one of its ships with rumors that just 500 passengers were confirmed for the cruise on a ship with a normal capacity of 2,100 passengers. Other ships continue to sail with anecdotal reports of passenger capacity as low as 30 percent.

The CDC, however, at the end of 2021 also issued an advisory saying regardless of vaccination status travelers should avoid cruises during the current surge of the COVID-19 virus. The CDC has not changed that recommendation.

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