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CDC Sets Framework To Restart Cruise Industry In Florida, U.S. Waters

Cruise ship on the water
Erin O'Brien/WUSF Public Media

It provides a phased approach to resuming cruises, which have been sidelined since a "no sail" order was issued in March.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday gave the cruise ship industry a framework to resume operations.

Friday’s conditional order replaces a "no sail" order that’s been in effect since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, but doesn't immediately open the door for passengers to start taking cruises again.

The CDC's latest order provides a phased approach to resume passenger operations in U.S. waters, starting with testing and additional safeguards for crew members.

“This framework provides a pathway to resume safe and responsible sailing. It will mitigate the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks on ships and prevent passengers and crew from seeding outbreaks at ports and in the communities where they live,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a press release Friday.

The new conditional order will remain in effect until Nov. 1, 2021, the expiration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s declaration of a public health emergency or when Redfield ends it.

The CDC's plan “will ensure cruise ship operators have adequate health and safety protections for crew members while these cruise ship operators build the laboratory capacity needed to test future passengers,” the 40-page order says.

Subsequent phases will include simulated voyages and eventually cruise ship passenger voyages “in a manner that mitigates COVID-19 risk among passengers, crew members, and U.S. communities.”

The cruise industry has been sidelined since a March “no sail” order, which has been extended three times. PortMiami, Port Canaveral, and Port Everglades are three of the top cruise ports in the world, with the large passenger ships also operating out of the Port of Tampa Bay, the Port of Palm Beach and JaxPort.

Currently, no major cruise lines are selling departures for November out of U.S. ports.

In August, the Florida Ports Council estimated the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the cruise industry in Florida, along with a slowdown in cargo traffic, at 169,000 Florida jobs and $23 billion in economic loss.

Gov. Ron DeSantis suggested Tuesday that rapid testing being used for airlines could be used to help to revive the cruise ship industry, which has outlined a list of protocols for the industry’s return to customer operations.

“Obviously, that is going to be an environment that is a different level of risk than going to an outdoor football game or some of these other things,” DeSantis said during an appearance at Seminole State College of Florida’s Heathrow Campus. “It has all kinds of impacts throughout different parts of Florida where the ships leave - Central Florida, South Florida, Tampa Bay. And we want to see that resume.”

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