The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is no longer monitoring how cruise lines implement Covid-19 protocols, saying that “cruise ships have access to guidance and tools to manage their own Covid-19 mitigation programs.”
The agency updated its website on Monday with a notice that read, “As of July 18, 2022, CDC’s Covid-19 Program for Cruise Ships is no longer in effect and this page will no longer be updated.”
Since early February, the CDC has ratcheted down warnings for cruising, starting with the creation of a voluntary Covid-19 program for cruise ships. At the time, the agency kept cruising at the top Level 4 travel notice, signifying “very high risk” and “avoid travel,” where it had been for months. Less than a week later, the agency lowered the cruising risk assessment to a Level 3 “high risk” notice.
In March, the CDC lowered the risk assessment again, to a Level 2 “moderate risk” notice. By the end of the month, it had dropped the travel health notice for cruising altogether.
Even so, the agency stressed that cruisers should be “up to date” on their vaccinations, meaning not only two vaccinations but booster shots for those who were eligible. The CDC recommended that people who had not received a booster shot should avoid cruising.
As of today, only about two thirds (67.1%) of the total U.S. population has been fully vaccinated, and about half of those who are booster-eligible have not yet received a first booster dose, according to CDC data.
So where does this latest change leave cruise passengers? Confused, most likely.
After all, Covid-19 outbreaks are still occurring on cruise ships. Last week, it was the Coral Princess, where over 100 people became infected. Some isolated on board while others were evacuated to isolate at home.
Covid-19 cases are on the rise in the U.S.. At this time, 1,143 counties — 35% of the country — are now experiencing high levels of transmission. In another 40% of counties, the Covid-19 Community Level is medium, leaving just 25% of counties with low levels of spread.
According to CDC guidance, it is “especially important” to wear a mask in crowded transportation hubs and in enclosed spaces and “when the Covid-19 Community Level in the area you are located in is high.” That includes the vast majority of Florida, from where most cruises depart.
New Covid-19 guidance for cruise ships “will be available in the coming days,” says the agency’s website.