The decision to temporarily extend the emergency health and safety protocols, which were set to expire in November, was due to the continued spread of the much more transmissible delta variant of the coronavirus, the CDC said.
Cruise ships have been allowed to operate for the past year so long as they adhere to these protocols , which include onboard masks and COVID-19 vaccinations or tests for passengers and crew.
Such requirements “have successfully averted overwhelming onboard medical facilities and burdening shoreside hospital resources,” the CDC said in a statement.
“While cruising will always pose some risk of disease spread, CDC remains committed to ensuring that cruising is conducted in way that protects crew members, passengers, port personnel, and communities,” the CDC said.
The CDC’s order applies to vessels currently operating or planning to operate in U.S. waters that have the capacity to carry at least 250 people.
Capt. Aimee Treffiletti, who leads the CDC’s maritime unit, told USA Today that the decision to extend the order was made “in the best interest of public health.”
“The pandemic isn’t over. We’ve seen what the delta variant can do,” Treffiletti said. “Despite, you know, really what have been the best efforts of the cruise industry to provide a safer and healthier environment for crew, passengers and communities, COVID-19 has still been a challenge, particularly with the delta variant.”