The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued the next phase of technical guidance under its Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO). Though it marks another step forward by the CDC, it gives no date for a restart of cruising from the U.S, and it remains unclear whether it is a sufficient advance to enable cruise lines to get the July restart date they have been looking for.
This phase, the second of the CSO issued in October 2020, provides technical instructions on:
- Increasing from weekly to daily the reporting frequency of COVID-19 cases and illnesses;
- Implementing routine testing of all crew based on each ship’s “Red-Orange-Yellow-Green” color status;
- Updating the color-coding system used to classify ships’ status with respect to COVID-19;
- Decreasing the time needed for a “red” ship to become “green” from 28 to 14 days based on the availability of onboard testing, routine screening testing protocols, and daily reporting;
- Creating planning materials for agreements that port authorities and local health authorities must approve to ensure cruise lines have the necessary infrastructure in place to manage an outbreak of COVID-19 on their ships to include healthcare capacity and housing to isolate infected people and quarantine those who are exposed; and
- Establishing a plan and timeline for vaccination of crew and port personnel.
The next phase of the CSO will include simulated (trial) voyages that will allow crew and port personnel to practice new COVID-19 operational procedures with volunteers before sailing with passengers.
CDC says that it is is committed to working with the cruise industry and seaport partners to resume cruising when it is safe to do so, following the phased approach outlined in the CSO.
The new guidance is the first to incorporate reference to vaccination. The CDC says COVID-19 vaccination efforts will be critical in the safe resumption of passenger operations. As more people are fully vaccinated, the phased approach allows CDC to incorporate these advancements into planning for resumption of cruise ship travel when it is safe to do so. CDC recommends that all eligible port personnel and travelers (passengers and crew) get a COVID-19 vaccine when one is available to them.