The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a letter that cruises may resume travel operations from the nation’s ports by mid-July, which has been suspended since March 2020 because of COVID-19.
According to USA Today, which had access to the letter, the re-opening will depend on how each company complies with the framework set out in the Conditions for Shipping Ordinance (CSO), issued last October, to which some updates have been made, according to the letter.
“We acknowledge that cruising will never be a zero-risk activity and that the goal of the Conditional Sailing Order’s phased approach is to resume passenger operations in a way that mitigates the risk of Covid-19 transmission onboard cruise ships and across port communities,” the CDC letter says.
The letter, which is signed by Aimee Treffiletti, head of the CDC’s Maritime Covid-19 Response Unit, follows up on a month-long series of weekly meetings between cruise industry representatives and the CDC.
Among the novelties contained in the letter is that a ship with 98% of its crew and 95% of its passengers vaccinated will be able to avoid the passenger-free trial voyage that, according to the CSO, cruise ships must make before being authorized to resume operations.
The ban on travel from ports in the United States, the industry’s main market, has exacerbated the crisis in one of the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic.
Some companies have opted to move their ships to other areas of the world or to use ports in the Caribbean for the departure of their vessels, in order to not shut down completely.
FL Governor DeSantis Demands the Lifting of Restrictions on Cruises
In Florida, where millions of dollars and thousands of jobs depend on the cruise industry, Republicans have urged the CDC to relax measures that have the state’s cruise ports idle.
U.S. Senators from Florida have introduced bills in Congress to force the CDC to be more lenient. Even Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) has filed a lawsuit in court against the federal government to have the ban on cruising lifted.
At the beginning of April, the CDC updated the pandemic measures for cruises from U.S. ports but maintained the recommendation to the population not to embark for pleasure.
According to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), which represents 95% of the companies with oceanic cruises, these companies had global losses of $77 billion, $23 billion in salaries, and 518,000 jobs between March and September 2020
In Miami-Dade County alone, cruise activity produces about $7 billion a year and employs, directly and indirectly, some 40,000 people, in addition to supporting other sectors of the economy.