CDC tepid on CLIA request, but meantime FMC’s Sola has a plan

Written by Nick Blenkey
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Federal Maritime Commissioner Louis E. Sola

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) appears to be in no hurry to respond to the Cruise Line International Association’s call for it to to lift the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO), issued October 30, 2020, and allow for the planning of a phased resumption of cruise operations from U.S. ports by the beginning of July.

Caitlin Shockey, spokesperson for the CDC, told USA TODAY yesterday that the conditional sailing order remains in effect until November 1.

“Returning to passenger cruising is a phased approach to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19,” USA Today quotes Shockey as saying. “Details for the next phase of the CSO are currently under interagency review.”

Meantime, an advisory on the CDC website still “recommends that all people avoid travel on cruise ships, including river cruises, worldwide, because the risk of COVID-19 on cruise ships is very high.”

FMC COMMISSIONER SPELLS OUT ECONOMIC DAMAGE

The CDC warning was originally issued on March 17, 2020. One year later, on March 18, 2021, Federal Maritime Commissioner Louis E. Sola issued a statement in which he said, “the loss of cruise operations over the course of an entire year has been felt by people and municipalities who rely on this segment of the tourism sector for jobs, salaries, and revenues.”

“We estimate the U.S. has lost approximately $15 billion in direct cruise expenditures and the ancillary businesses that rely upon the cruise industry have lost approximately $44 billion,” he notes.

“Cruise vessels calling ports create jobs and economic activity. It is not just the fees paid to a port authority or the shoreside and longshore jobs created. Cruise vessels require food, linens, and uniforms. They require entertainers, shoreside maintenance personnel, and fuel,” says Sola. “This is hardly an exhaustive list of services and supplies procured by cruise lines, frequently to the benefit of local and regional businesses throughout the United States.

“Cruise passengers stay in hotels before and after trips. They buy airplane tickets, rent cars, visit museums, shop in local retail outlets, and eat in local restaurants. The economic opportunities associated with a cruise ship call are varied and significant.”

SOLA HAS PLAN

“No matter where I go or who I communicate with, I have heard one message over and over again from port executives, union leaders, municipal government officials, and citizens—cruise ships provide livelihoods for many Americans and the sooner vessels sail again, the sooner people can provide for themselves and their families,” says Sola. “Vaccines are the game changer that will allow that to happen.”

Commissioner Sola says there is apath to the safe resumption of cruise vessel operations. It is a simple three-step process, revolving around vaccines, that he calls “Cruise Forward:”

  • Vaccinations:
    1. Shore Side Measures Vaccinations — We need to prioritize providing our maritime workforce, particularly terminal workers and longshore labor.
    2. Shipboard Measures Vaccinations — Vaccinate crew and only permit vaccinated individuals travel as passengers.
    3. Destination Vaccinations — There are destinations where cruise vessels can sail and find little risk of COVID. Vaccination rates in Alaska are impressive and that state is reaching herd immunity. Many cruise lines operate their own islands in the Bahamas and immunizing all staff working at such facilities is imminently achievable.
  • Sanitation: Cruise lines and ports must work with health leaders to develop a uniform set of minimum best sanitation practices and implement them.
  • Coordination: A coordinated effort that will not only minimize one’s risk of exposure to disease at the terminal prior to boarding but also on the vessel is essential. Cooperation between the lines and every port of call must also exist to address evacuation, isolation, and the provision of medical care of infected individuals. As daunting as it may sound, such agreements and plans already exist at some ports and trial runs have already been conducted.
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