The CDC has lifted its cruise ship ‘no sail’ order. Or rather they’re allowing the no sail order to expire. And in its place is a framework to allow cruise ships return to sea with revenue passengers.
The ban was last extended at the end of September, to last through end of October. At the time there had been 3689 confirmed Covid-19 cases or ‘Covid-like illnesses’ on board cruise ships just in U.S. waters, along with 41 reported deaths.
Now the new guidance lays out how cruise ships have to prepare for safe protocols, including crewmember testing and ship board laboratories that will be able to test passengers. Masks are going to be required in public spaces when social distancing isn’t possible.
In late September the first cruise ship to sail in Greece tested all passengers and crew prior to departure, but during the journey 12 crewmembers tested positive. The company says these were false positives with no symptoms and follow up negative tests.
All major U.S. ships have cancelled their trips through November, so it will be December at the earliest – and the bureaucracy moves slowly so perhaps not then – when ships begin to cruise again. The first trips are expected to depart from Florida at reduced capacity.
So is that enough?
- Indoor congregant settings without sufficient ventilation gathering together a demographic that skews older and more vulnerable to the virus seems inadvisable to me.
- But from a public health standpoint people isolating themselves on a cruise aren’t going to contribute substantially to community spread if they’re regularly tested.
- The number of people picking up the virus on a ship, testing negative prior to disembarkation while incubating the virus, and subsequently spreading it in the community will very limited.
In the context of a growing epidemic in the U.S., I wouldn’t go anywhere near a cruise ship but also don’t see much public health benefit from banning them either providing rigorous testing is in place. Will you cruise while before the pandemic ends?
Norwegian’s CEO agrees with me, saying it’s crazy people are booking cruises now, but they are… And there are potentially even greater risks to a ship than Covid.