TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent a letter to cruise lines Thursday saying they may be able to resume voyages by this July. However, there are some rules they’ll have to follow.
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 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.
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 has 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.
Earlier this month, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis filed a lawsuit against the CDC and federal government demanding the reopening of the cruise industry.
Additionally, Florida Sens. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio tried to develop legislation, called the Careful Resumption Under Improved Safety Enhancements (CRUISE) Act, that would revoke the CDC’s current No Sail Order and get the cruise industry moving again, but an effort to pass the bill was blocked in the Senate.
“For months, America’s cruise lines have waited for guidance and the opportunity to reopen while so many other industries were able to restart safely. I am glad that the CDC has finally answered my calls to get things moving in the right direction so our cruise industry can get back to work,” Scott said in a statement released Thursday.
“Florida is a tourism state with thousands of jobs relying on the success of our ports, cruise lines and maritime industries,” he said. “This new guidance from the CDC is a welcome change in course that will provide desperately needed clarity for so many employers and families in Florida and across the nation.”
However, Scott said he will continue his efforts.
“I will not let up,” he said. “The CDC has treated America’s cruise industry terribly over the past year and I will continue my fight to hold the CDC accountable and make sure we reach a quick and equitable solution that keeps people safe and protects jobs in Florida and across the nation.”