CDC cruise travel warning raised to ‘level 4’ amid omicron COVID outbreak

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As clusters of COVID-19 cases continue to emerge the cruise ships since the omicron variant appeared, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned travelers against cruises.

“Today, the CDC raised the Cruise Travel Health Advisory (THN) to a level 4, recommending that people avoid cruise travel regardless of their immunization status,” the CDC said in a press release provided by spokesperson Dave Daigle.

The agency noted that the decision was made as cases of COVID-19 increased on ships, in the United States and around the world.

Between November 30 and December 14, cruise ships operating in U.S. waters reported 162 cases of COVID-19 to the CDC. Between December 15 and December 29, cruise ships operating in U.S. waters reported 5,013 cases of COVID-19 to the CDC.

That’s nearly 31 times the number of cases reported in the first two weeks of December, the CDC said.

In the United States, the seven-day daily average of COVID-19 cases has been 240,000 per day. That’s an increase of about 60% from the previous week, according to the CDC.

From Wednesday, the CDC investigated or monitored over 90 ships for COVID-19 on board. CDC said on its website on Thursday that the decision to increase the cruise warning level reflects the increase in cases since the identification of the omicron variant of COVID.

Daigle told USA TODAY on Tuesday that the health agency recognized that it was “not possible” for cruising to be a zero-risk activity amid the pandemic. A person’s risk of contracting coronavirus is higher on cruise ships, as the virus spreads more easily between people spending time near ships.

Previously, the CDC had set up a “Level 3: high level of COVID-19” warning, which was put in place in August.

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Cruise Lines International Association, the industry’s leading organization, said it was “disappointed” with the CDC’s decision to warn against the form of travel.

“The CDC’s decision to increase the level of travel for cruises is particularly puzzling given that the cases identified on cruise ships consistently represent a very small minority of the total population on board – far less than on land – and the majority of these cases are asymptomatic. or mild in nature, placing little or no burden on medical resources on board or ashore, ”CLIA said in a statement shared by Bari Golin-Blaugrund, vice president of strategic communications and of CLIA Public Affairs.

The organization continued that “no environment can be safe from this virus” and added that cruise lines provide highly controlled environments with a protocol in place to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, including testing and immunization levels.

“While we are disappointed and at odds 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 Cruise members remain committed to working in working with the CDC in the interest of public health and safety, ”CLIA said.

If travelers choose to embark on a cruise, the CDC has said to ensure they are fully vaccinated and receive a COVID-19 booster if they are eligible before boarding.

Will the cruise industry close again?

COVID-19 cases reported on cruise ships are piling up. As the numbers climb, will cruise lines stop their operations as they did in March 2020, leaving the industry closed for over a year?

Although the answer remains unclear, it does not seem likely.

The lines have yet to cancel crossings, although some companies have adjusted protocols on board the ships. The world is not in the same place with COVID-19 as it is in 2020. Vaccines are widely available and improved protocols on ships are mitigating the spread of communicable diseases.

Although it raised its warning level, the CDC has not decided to shut down the cruise industry. The agency’s conditional sailing order remains in place until mid-January before becoming voluntary for cruise passengers.

“The CDC is working with cruise ships to ensure the safety of passengers and crew through COVID-19 mitigation measures,” Daigle said Thursday. “The best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 is to get vaccinated, get a booster, wear a mask in indoor public places in areas of high and high community transmission, and get tested before assembling . “

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