The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said they are "committed" to allowing cruise ships to resume passenger operations in mid-summer, the agency said in a Wednesday letter to the cruise industry.
The letter, sent by Aimee Treffiletti with the CDC’s Global Mitigation Task Force, said the CDC has been holding meetings twice a week with cruise line representations to discuss developments impacting the agency's Conditional Sailing Order issued last year.
"We acknowledge that cruising will never be a zero-risk activity and that the goal of the CSO’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 letter read. "We remain committed to the resumption of passenger operations in the United States following the requirements in the CSO by mid-summer, which aligns with the goals announced by many major cruise lines."
Earlier this month, the state of Florida filed a lawsuit against the federal government demanding that cruise ships be allowed to start sailing immediately.
In announcing the lawsuit, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the no-sail order is outdated and hurts the state as the industry generates billions for the economy and employs tens of thousands of Floridians.
The CDC on April 2 had issued new guidelines for companies on how to respond in the event of COVID-19 cases but has so far not lifted its no-sail order.
In Wednesday's letter, Treffiletti outlined some clarifications to the April 2 guidelines, including that ships may be allowed to sail without conducting the required practice voyage if 98% of crew and 95% of passengers have been fully vaccinated.
The CDC shut down sailing last March when several coronavirus outbreaks were tied to ships worldwide, prompting ports to reject docking plans and leaving some passengers and crew members to navigate for an extended time.
Florida is the nation’s cruise capital with three of the world’s busiest ports: Miami, Port Canaveral near Kennedy Space Center, and Port Everglades near Fort Lauderdale. The lawsuit says industry generates billions for the state’s economy as millions of people typically cruise from one of Florida's ports each year.
DeSantis has maintained the ban disproportionally impacts Florida and has said that cruising has resumed in much of the world, forcing Americans to fly to other ports in the nearby Bahamas. Industry leaders say there have been no new outbreaks tied to their ships.
“People are going to cruise one way or another. The question is are we going to do it out of Florida, which is the number one place to do it in the world, or are they going to be doing it out of the Bahamas or other locations?” DeSantis said at a news conference at Port Miami.