By DAVID KOENIG – AP Business Writer
Federal health officials are dropping the warning they’ve linked to cruises since the pandemic began, leaving vacationers to decide whether they feel safe boarding a ship.
Cruise line operators welcomed Wednesday’s announcement, which came as many people pondered summer vacation plans.
An industry trade group said the move by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed measures being taken by shipowners, including requiring crew members and most passengers to be vaccinated against the virus.
The CDC removed the COVID-19 “Cruise Ship Health Notice,” first introduced in March 2020 following virus outbreaks on multiple ships around the world.
However, the agency expressed reservations about cruises.
“While cruising always poses some risk of transmission of COVID-19, travelers will make their own risk assessment when choosing to travel on a cruise ship, similar to any other travel environment,” CDC spokesman Dave Daigle said in an E -Mail.
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Daigle said the CDC’s decision was based on “the current status of the pandemic and the decline in COVID-19 cases aboard cruise ships in recent weeks.”
COVID-19 cases in the United States have been falling since mid-January, although the decline has slowed in recent weeks, and the current seven-day moving average for daily new cases in the United States is down from two weeks ago, according to data roughly unchanged figures from Johns Hopkins University. States have rolled back mask mandates and pressured federal officials to relax virus-related restrictions.
Outbreaks continue to be reported on cruise ships, which are conducting random testing before the end of the voyage.
On Sunday, a Princess Cruises ship returning from the Panama Canal had “several” passengers who had tested positive for the virus. Princess Cruises said all affected passengers showed mild or no symptoms and all crew and passengers had been vaccinated. About a dozen passengers tested positive before the same boat docked in San Francisco in January.
Operators are required to notify the CDC of virus cases on board ships. The agency has a color-coded system for classifying ships based on the percentage of passengers who have tested positive. The CDC said the system will remain in place.
Cruise line operators have complained since the pandemic began that their industry was singled out for closure and then tougher COVID-19 restrictions than others, including airlines.
The Cruise Lines International Association said in a statement that the CDC’s decision to remove its health warning “recognizes the effective public health measures in place on cruise lines and begins to level the playing field between cruise lines and similarly located land-based venues.”
Colleen McDaniel, editor-in-chief of Cruise Critic, a website that publishes travel reviews, called the CDC decision big news.
“Symbolically it’s a sign of the Wind of Change when it comes to cruising,” she said. “I think it can convince some of the doubters. What the CDC says matters to cruisers.”
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