Instead, the agency will transition to a voluntary coronavirus risk mitigation program for ships when its Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) expires on Jan. 15, a CDC spokesperson confirmed to FOX Business on Thursday.
The CDC has sent information about the voluntary program to the cruise industry and anticipates operators will decide on whether to participate in the coming week. Additional information on the program will be released following the CSO’s expiration.
Ships that operate in U.S. waters and sail on international itineraries that choose not to participate in the program will be designated as gray under the agency’s Cruise Ship Color Status webpage, indicating that the CDC has not reviewed or confirmed the cruise ship operator’s health and safety protocols. Those sailing only in U.S. waters will not be listed.
Meanwhile, the CDC’s maritime unit will continue to work closely with participating cruise ships, monitoring COVID-19 preventive measures and onboard cases through daily enhanced data collection and inspections.
The Cruise Line International Association said the CDC’s decision “recognizes the cruise industry’s unwavering commitment to providing some of the highest levels of COVID-19 mitigation found in any industry” and that its members will “continue to be guided by the science and the principle of putting people first.”
The CLIA noted in a statement that cruises are the only segment of travel and tourism that require “exceedingly high levels of vaccination (approaching 100% compared to only 63% of the U.S. population) and 100% testing of every individual (21 times the rate of the U.S. on land)” prior to embarkation for both passengers and crew.
“When cases are identified as a result of the high-frequency of testing onboard, cruise ship protocols help to maximize onboard containment with rapid response procedures designed to safeguard all other guests and crew as well as the communities that the ships visit,” the CLIA said.
In addition, it emphasized that cruises are the only sector that continuously monitors, collects and reports case information directly to the CDC.