As has been hinted in recent weeks, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has lowered its warning to go on a cruise ship.
The warning was changed from a level 4 to a level 3 warning from “very high” to “high”.
A Level 3 warning means those not fully vaccinated against Covid-19 should avoid cruise ship travel, but does not go so far as to warn against cruise ship travel for everyone.
The four warning levels are:
He made the change to his level of travel health notice based on two factors:
- Cumulative number of new crew cases of COVID-19 in the past 14 days
- Whether cases among crew members are increasing, decreasing, or staying the same.
A Level 3 warning means that the cumulative number of new cases of Covid-19 over the past 14 days is between 1,000 and 2,000, and the cumulative number of new symptomatic cases of Covid-19 over the past 14 days is between 500 and 999.
The drop in the CDC’s warning level was raised by Royal Caribbean executives during an earnings call with Wall Street investors on Feb. 4.
At the time, Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley said he expected the change: “We also believe that in the not-too-distant future, CDC Tier Four will be downgraded to tier three, and I think that will also be another positive move in the right direction.”
Cruise industry reaction
Immediately after the lowering of the warning, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) issued a statement supporting the change.
CLIA has been extremely vocal in its criticism of CDC policies toward the cruise industry recently, but said this new change is a “step in the right direction.”
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) decision to lower the threat level of travel health notices for cruise ships is a step in the right direction and recognizes the leadership and effectiveness of health protocols and safety of the cruise industry that are unmatched by virtually any other business environment.”
CLIA pointed to the fact that the lowering of the warning is a direct result of the effective health protocols the cruise industry has used to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, “Cruise ships have medical facilities, d on-site isolation and quarantine, implement extensive response plans using private shore-based resources, and have created an environment where nearly every person is fully immunized.
“As a result, COVID-19 cases are very low, with the vast majority being mild or asymptomatic, making the cruise unrivaled in its multi-tiered approach to effectively mitigating COVID-19.”
A change after harsher words
The CDC lowered its warning for cruise ship travel less than a week after the cruise industry criticized the CDC’s updated guidelines.
On February 9, the CDC unveiled the terms of its voluntary Covid-19 program for cruise ships to follow. He was met almost immediately by backlash from cruise lines who saw him as out of touch with society’s current approach to Covid.
Despite the precipitous drop in Covid numbers on ships (and on land), the agency continued to urge the public not to travel by cruise ship for those fully vaccinated because, in their view, the chances of contracting the COVID on a cruise ship are “very high”.
CLIA went so far as to call out the CDC for being “unnecessarily discriminating” against the cruise industry.
CLIA also said that positive Covid cases on cruise ships have seen a dramatic decline lately, and that Covid cases on cruise ships are 80 times lower than on land in the United States.