CDC Issues Next Phase of the Conditional Sail Order for Cruise Ship Operators

By  //  April 2, 2021

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ABOVE VIDEO: Governor Ron DeSantis, Attorney General Ashley Moody and Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Secretary Kevin J. Thibault, P.E. held a roundtable discussion with cruise industry executives and employees to highlight the importance of this critical industry to Florida’s economy.

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued the next phase of technical guidance under the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) requiring cruise lines to establish agreements at ports where they intend to operate, implement routine testing of crew, and develop plans incorporating vaccination strategies to reduce the risk of introduction and spread of COVID-19 by crew and passengers.

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 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.
– 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.

Port Canaveral

CDC says it 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 CDC continued on by saying 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,” said a CDC spokesperson.

“CDC recommends that all eligible port personnel and travelers (passengers and crew) get a COVID-19 vaccine when one is available to them.”

“Cruising safely and responsibly during a global pandemic is difficult. While cruising will always pose some risk of COVID-19 transmission, following the phases of the CSO will ensure cruise ship passenger operations are conducted in a way that protects crew members, passengers, and port personnel, particularly with emerging COVID-19 variants of concern,” the CDC concluded.

The announcement comes on the heels when Gov. Ron DeSantis’ visited Port Canaveral last week for a roundtable discussion with Attorney General Ashley Moody and Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Secretary Kevin J. Thibault, P.E., along with cruise industry executives and employees to highlight the importance of this critical industry to Florida’s economy.

During that discussion, Gov. DeSantis called on the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to rescind its no-sail order which the CDC has indicated will remain in place until November 1, 2021.

“The federal government has provided guidance to all other passenger transportation modes and other industries; however, it has failed to issue guidance for the cruise industry to assist in its recovery.”

“In addition to the lack of guidance, the federal government has neglected to provide relief funding to seaports while airports and transit agencies have received assistance through previous relief packages.”

Earlier this month, Governor DeSantis recommended Florida’s seaports receive $258.2 million out of the state’s share of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, to account for the losses accrued due to the no-sail order.

“If there is one thing we’ve learned over the past year, it’s that lockdowns don’t work, and Floridians deserve the right to earn a living,” said Governor DeSantis.

“The cruise industry is essential to our state’s economy and keeping it shut down until November would be devastating to the men and women who rely on the cruise lines to provide for themselves and their families. I urge the CDC to immediately rescind this baseless no-sail order to allow Floridians in this industry to get back to work.”

“If there is one thing we’ve learned over the past year, it’s that lockdowns don’t work, and Floridians deserve the right to earn a living,” said Governor DeSantis.

“It’s anchors aweigh for almost every travel industry in the U.S., yet the Biden administration is keeping our cruise liners docked—while many other major countries begin to operate cruises safely under health guidelines. The rationale for keeping U.S. cruises shuttered through the foreseeable future is based on outdated data and guidelines put in place before we had a COVID-19 vaccine,” said Attorney General Ashley Moody.

“The federal government is acting outside its authority in singling out and docking the cruise industry while other tourism-based businesses continue to operate in accordance with health guidelines. This heavy-handed federal overreach is harming our nation’s economy and is especially damaging to Florida’s economy and our vital tourism industry. That is why, we are calling on the Biden administration to lift the outdated lockdown order on Florida’s cruise industry and allow workers who rely on this important industry to get back to work.”

“The federal government is acting outside its authority in singling out and docking the cruise industry while other tourism-based businesses continue to operate in accordance with health guidelines. This heavy-handed federal overreach is harming our nation’s economy and is especially damaging to Florida’s economy and our vital tourism industry. That is why, we are calling on the Biden administration to lift the outdated lockdown order on Florida’s cruise industry and allow workers who rely on this important industry to get back to work,” said Attorney General Ashley Moody.

“Under Governor DeSantis’ leadership, the state continues to make key investments in our transportation system, but, because of the CDC’s no-sail order, the cruise industry is still struggling,” said FDOT Secretary Kevin J. Thibault, P.E. “The Governor and the state continue to do all that we can to help these members of our communities regain their livelihoods and we hope our federal counterparts follow suit.”

On March 14, the nation marked its one-year anniversary of the CDC’s no-sail order. A September 2020 report from the Federal Maritime Commission estimated that during the first 6 months of the pandemic, losses in Florida due to the cruise industry shutdown totalled $3.2 billion in economic activity, including 49,500 jobs paying $2.3 billion in wages. In addition, Florida saw wide-ranging indirect impacts throughout the state – from airports and ground transportation to hotels, restaurants, and tourist destinations.

The COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on the cruise industry are part of a larger struggle facing the entire travel industry, which ended 2020 with $1.1 trillion in losses, a 42 percent drop from 2019.

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