Cruise lines to follow CDC COVID-19 protocols through Jan. 15

The COVID-19 protocols by which cruise lines must operate will be around for a bit longer.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has extended the agency’s Framework for Conditional Sailing Order until Jan. 15, USA Today reported.

The order, which was set to expire on Nov. 1, according to The Washington Post, applies to foreign-flagged ships operating in U.S. waters that carry 250 people that either operate or plan to operate with overnight stays for passengers or crew members.

It also said that at least 95% of people had to be vaccinated or cruise lines could perform test cruises to show their safety procedures, the Post reported.

“The pandemic isn’t over. We’ve seen what the delta variant can do,” Capt. Aimee Treffiletti, the head of the CDC’s maritime unit, said. “Despite, you know, really what have been the best efforts of the cruise industry to provide a safety and healthier environment for crew, passengers and communities, COVID-19 has still been a challenge, particularly with the delta variant.”

This is not the first time the protocols have been extended — the first time was nearly a year ago when the CDC’s No Sail Order was to expire.

With the extension come some changes, including rules with masking and testing procedures. The number of vaccinated passengers can be lowered, the Post reported.

“Foreign-flagged ships typically operate on international itineraries far from U.S. shores, outbreaks are more likely to require emergency evacuations while at sea which can burden U.S. Coast Guard and other emergency medical response resources,” CDC spokesperson Dave Daigle told USA Today. “Additionally, stopping in foreign ports increases the risk of introducing COVID-19 variants on board.”

Cruise lines also can do away with CDC travel advisories and warnings about cruising in companies’ marketing materials, the Post reported.

Once the extension runs out, the CDC will allow cruise lines to set up programs on a voluntary basis but will continue to work with companies to ensure passengers’ health and safety.

More information about the voluntary program will be released later, the Post reported.

The first cruises set sail under the CDC’s order in June after being shut down in March 2020. There are 47 ships sailing with paying passengers in U.S. waters that are also following CDC guidance, USA Today reported.

The CDC did not release how many cases of COVID-19 have happened on ships since voyages resumed, the Post reported.

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