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CDC announces next phase of cruise ship guidance

CDC announces next phase of cruise ship guidance
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidance Friday that will eventually allow cruises to fully resume in U.S. waters, though it did not include a date for when ships will be allowed to sail.

The CDC first issued a no-sail order in March 2020 and the industry, which has been operating under a "conditional sailing order" (CSO) since late October, has been clamoring for a date to sail again.

Instead, the agency on Friday offered technical instructions about reducing the spread of COVID-19 and how to deal with outbreaks that occur at sea.

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According to the CDC, this phase of the conditional sailing order will include simulated voyages that will allow crew and port personnel to practice new COVID-19 operational procedures with volunteers before sailing with passengers.

The CDC's update includes a requirement to increase COVID-19 reporting frequency from weekly to daily. It also updates a color-coding system used to classify ships related to COVID-19 and addresses routine testing of crew based on a ship's color status. 

"Cruising safely and responsibly during a global pandemic is difficult," the CDC said in a statement. "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 update comes after the cruise industry last week called for CDC to allow cruises to resume from U.S. ports by the beginning of July.

The Cruise Lines International Association industry group said a July restart would bring the industry in line with President BidenJoe BidenBiden announces picks to lead oceans, lands agencies Overnight Defense: Top general concerned about Afghan forces after US troops leave | Pentagon chief: Climate crisis 'existential' threat to US national security | Army conducts review after 4 Black soldiers harassed at Virginia IHOP Feds expect to charge scores more in connection to Capitol riot MORE’s goal of “getting the nation closer to normal” by the Fourth of July.

"The lack of any action by the CDC has effectively banned all sailings in the largest cruise market in the world," the group wrote. "The outdated CSO, which was issued almost five months ago, does not reflect the industry’s proven advancements and success operating in other parts of the world, nor the advent of vaccines, and unfairly treats cruises differently."

Companies have announced the resumption of cruises in other parts of the world. Royal Caribbean in early March announced it would hold a "fully vaccinated" cruise. The cruise line's newest ship, Odyssey of the Seas, is set to launch from Haifa, Israel, for the first time in May.