The cruise industry is one step closer to getting bac on its feet after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidelines Friday on what it would take for ships to operate safely.
The CDC released a long list of guidelines to help the ships get sailing after the cruise industry was dealt a devastating blow by COVID-19.
The CDC's new guidelines include:
- Increasing from weekly to daily reporting of COVID-19 cases
- Updating the color-coding system used to classify ships' COVID-19 status
- Routine testing of crew members based on ship's color status
- Working with health officials to develop a plan in case there's an outbreak on a ship
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The next phase also includes practice voyages which would allow crew members and port personnel to try out the new restrictions on volunteers.
"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," the CDC said in a statement. "CDC recommends that all eligible port personnel and travelers (passengers and crew) get a COVID-19 vaccine when one is available to them."
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis last week threatened to sue the CDC if cruise ships weren't allowed to resume operations soon.
The state 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. Millions typically cruise from Florida each year and the industry generates billions for the state's economy.
"We look forward to coordinating with all parties to put forth a comprehensive program to respond to the requirements," Port Everglades said in a statement. "We remain optimistic that this can be done in time for summer sailing."
DeSantis said the continued ban is only hurting Florida with no effect on the pandemic as cruising is resuming elsewhere in the world and Americans are flying to the nearby Bahamas to board ships.
“Is it OK for the government to just idle an industry for a year?” the Republican governor said. He said people now need to decide for themselves what they are willing to risk.
Some experts have defended the ban, saying it's still too early for cruises to resume. They say being around that many people for long periods of time increases the chances of catching the virus.
The CDC shut down the cruise industry a year ago when several coronavirus outbreaks were tied to ships worldwide. DeSantis and industry leaders argued that with widespread testing and vaccines becoming more available, the danger is now no worse than air and train travel, which are open. Cruising has resumed with restrictions and protocols in much of the world with the industry leaders saying there have been no new outbreaks tied to their ships.
"Some may want to sue, but we want to sail, and we are ready to collaborate to make sure the Cruise Capital of the World can lead the way to rebuild this critical industry," Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine-Cava said in a statement.