TAMPA, Fla. (NewsNation Now) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is “committed” to the resumption of cruise industry passenger operations in the United States by mid-summer, the agency said on Wednesday, announcing new steps to speed approvals.
The assurance comes after the state of Alaska last week joined Florida’s April 8 suit to overturn a CDC decision to bar the industry from immediately resuming operations halted for a year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
According to a CDC representative, CDC leadership has met twice weekly over the past month with cruise line representatives to discuss the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO), which addresses cruise operations in U.S. waters.
“Within these meetings, participants asked questions and discussed the fastest path back to sailing without compromising safety,” the CDC representative said in a statement sent to NewsNation affiliate WFLA. “Today, in response to the industry’s feedback, CDC announced five key clarifications with the existing CSO framework.”
First, a cruise ship must have 98% of its crew and 95% of its passengers fully vaccinated, according to the statement.
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In addition, the statement said the CDC would review and respond to applications for simulated voyages within five days instead of the anticipated 60-day waiting period.
The third key clarification issued by the CDC says fully vaccinated passengers and crew members will no longer need to undergo a Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT), a type of viral diagnostic test for SARS-CoV-2. Instead, they may take a simple viral test once they board the ship.
Additionally, the health agency said, “Cruise ship operators may enter into a multi-port agreement provided that relevant port and local health authorities are signatories to the agreement.” This would be appropriate if one port has limited medical or housing capacity and a nearby port could supplement.
The final key clarification involves quarantine housing for local passengers if they are within driving distance.
“CDC remains committed to the resumption of passenger operations in the United States following the requirements in the CSO by mid-summer, which aligns with the goals announced by many major cruise lines and travelers,” the statement read.
Reuters and NewsNation affiliate WFLA contributed to this report.