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CDC says cruises could begin in July

CDC says cruises could begin in July
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Wednesday told cruise lines that they could resume sailing with passengers as early as mid-summer. 

In a letter to cruise lines that was first obtained by USA Today and later reported by Reuters, Aimee Treffiletti, head of the maritime unit for the CDC’s COVID-19 response, said that while “cruising will never be a zero-risk activity,” the goal of a phased reopening “is to resume passenger operations in a way that mitigates the risk of COVID-19 transmission onboard cruise ships and across port communities.” 

The CDC confirmed in a statement shared with The Hill that cruises could resume passenger trips from the U.S. in mid-July, so long as they comply with the CDC’s Conditional Sailing Order, which has been in place since late October. 

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The CDC first issued a no-sail order in March 2020 during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The statement added that the CDC “looks forward to continued engagement with the industry and urges cruise lines to submit Phase 2A port agreements as soon as possible to maintain the timeline of passenger voyages by mid-July.” 

The CDC told The Hill that in response to cruise line industry feedback, it made clarifications to its conditional sailing order framework, noting that ships may move to passenger sailing "if a ship attests that 98 percent of its crew and 95 percent of its passengers are fully vaccinated."

The agency also reduced its previous 60-day waiting period to respond to applications to begin passenger voyages to five days, and updated testing requirements and guidance on ventilation systems.

The CDC earlier this month issued updated guidance for cruises, which included a phase of the conditional sailing order allowing for simulated voyages for crew and port personnel to practice new COVID-19 operational procedures with volunteers before sailing with passengers.

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The updated guidance, which did not include a specific date for reopening, also listed requirements for ships to shift from reporting COVID-19 frequency weekly to daily, and also updated a color-coding system used to classify ships related to COVID-19. 

The update came a week after the Cruise Lines International Association industry group called for a reopening of U.S. ports by July, arguing that doing so would be in line with President BidenJoe BidenBiden says Beau's assessment of first 100 days would be 'Be who you are' Biden: McCarthy's support of Cheney ouster is 'above my pay grade' Conservative group sues over prioritization of women, minorities for restaurant aid MORE’s goal of “getting the nation closer to normal” by the Fourth of July.

Transportation Secretary Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegGas shortages spread to more states Biden officials warn against hoarding gasoline amid shortages Republicans welcome the chance to work with Democrats on a bipartisan infrastructure bill MORE earlier this month said he was hopeful that cruises would begin operating again by mid-summer 2021. 

“I certainly care a lot about seeing the cruise sector thrive,” he said in remarks at a White House briefing. “I know that the CDC is hopeful that a lot of these operators will be in a position to be sailing by mid-summer.”

--Updated at 11:43 p.m.