CDC suggests all Americans, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status, avoid cruises

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(WHEC) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Thursday urged all Americans, regardless of vaccination status, to avoid cruise ship travel as COVID-19 cases surge across the U.S.

This follows several cases in which cruises that required all passengers to be fully vaccinated and tested for COVID-19 saw outbreaks of the virus and a U.S. Navy ship with a crew that the Navy said was "100% immunized" had a COVID-19 outbreak that infected nearly 25% of its crew.

The CDC Travel Notice raised COVID-19 levels on cruise ships from “Level 3: High” to “Level 4: Very High”, the highest level, and says, “The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads easily between people in close quarters on board ships, and the chance of getting COVID-19 on cruise ships is very high, even if you are fully vaccinated and have received a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose.”

The CDC is suggesting that anyone who goes on a cruise get tested 1–3 days before their trip and 3–5 days after their trip, regardless of vaccination status or symptoms, wear a mask whenever they are in a public part of the cruise ship and self-quarantine for five days after cruise travel.

It’s also suggesting Americans get vaccinated and boosted for COVID-19 before going on a cruise, even though its suggestion for additional precautions are the same for vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

The CDC says there has been an increase in the number of cruise ships meeting the COVID-19 case threshold for CDC investigation, also known as "Yellow Status" since the identification of the omicron variant, which studies have suggested is more infectious, but less likely to lead to hospitalization than previous variants.

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) tweeted the following statement in response:

"The decision by the CDC to raise the travel level for cruise is particularly perplexing considering that cases identified on cruise ships consistently make up a very slim minority of the total population onboard—far fewer than on land—and the majority of those cases are asymptomatic or mild in nature posing little to no burden on medical resources onboard or onshore.

"No setting can be immune from this virus—however, it is also the case that cruise provides one of the highest levels of demonstrated mitigation against the virus. Cruise ships offer a highly controlled environment with science-backed measures, known testing and vaccination levels far above other venues or modes of transportation and travel, and significantly lower incidence than land.

"While we are disappointed and disagree with the decision to single out the cruise industry—an industry that continues to go above and beyond compared to other sectors—CLIA and our ocean-going cruise line members remain committed to working collaboratively with the CDC in the interest of public health and safety."