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New guidelines were issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding additional precautions they recommend all cruise lines take to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The CDC has given cruise lines until February 18 to decide whether they will opt in and follow these new guidelines.

These guidelines come out a month after the CDC issued a Conditional Sailing Order, listing health and safety protocols that expired on January 15, 2022. The updated program includes many of the CSO guidelines.

The CDC has remained consistent in their recommendation that travelers avoid cruising during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially passengers who are considered higher risk. Due to the close quarters within a cruise ship, the chances are higher of COVID spreading while onboard. They have strongly urged people who with to take a cruise vacation to be fully vaccinated before boarding.

However, simply receiving the initial dose of the vaccine is not enough, according to the CDC’s new COVID program. They have implemented a vaccination status tier that distinguishes between passengers and crew who are fully vaccinated and boosted from those who have received only the first two COVID shots.

The new program splits cruise ships into three separate tiers. Ships that are designated as “highly vaccinated” have at least 95 percent of all passengers and crew fully vaccinated. Ships that are “not highly vaccinated” have less than 95 percent of all passengers and crew fully vaccinated. Lastly, the third tier of ships are designated as “vaccination standard of excellence.” What this category means is at least 95 percent of passengers and crew are up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines, which means that passengers who are eligible, have received their booster shots.

Additionally, quarantine and isolation rules will depend on vaccination status. On the vessels designated under the category of “vaccination standard of excellence,” any close contacts for people who are identified with COVID-19 must quarantine at least five full days after exposure. For ships that are either of the two tiers, close contacts must quarantine for at least 10 days after exposure. Passengers can end isolation after five days on ships designated as “vaccination standard of excellence.”

Cruise lines can opt into the new COVID-19 program, regardless of their vaccination classification. However, the cruise line must share the vaccination status of each vessel with the CDC. This information will then be posted on the CDC web site along with the number of COVID-19 cases reported on each ship.

Under the new COVID-19 program, cruise lines no longer need preapproval from the CDC for diagnostic and screening tests, while testing requirements will remain.  The CDC also scrapped the requirement of having negative air pressure in quarantine cabins. Quarantine cabins will need to be in a separate HVAC zone, but only isolation cabins will need the negative air pressure.

The Cruise Line International Association issued a statement after the CDC’s announcement stating that the CDC’s latest guidelines were unnecessary considering the drop in the number of COVID-19 positive cases. The CDC says they will reevaluate their guidelines “based on public health conditions and available scientific evidence” by March 18 and will update as needed.

According to the CDC, participation in this new program is voluntary, and cruise lines can make the decision as to whether to participate.  However, the CDC still maintains the ability to regulate the cruise industry, even if the cruise line does not opt into the new program.

If a cruise line decides to not participate, its ships would qualify under the CDC’s mask order for public transportation, as well as the CDC’s regulatory authority to inspect its vessels.

All cruise lines, regardless of whether they participate in the new program, are required to report every positive COVID-19 case on board.

Aronfeld Trial Lawyers is a personal injury firm located in Miami, Florida since 1991.  We have fought hard to hold cruise lines accountable when they put their profits ahead of passenger safety.  We are available 24/7 and encourage you to contact us even if you are still on your cruise. The sooner we can begin our investigation and preservation of key evidence, such as the CCTV footage of your trip and fall, slip and fall, assault, or other type of injury the more likely we will be able to understand and prove how the incident occurred. Remember, the cruise lines have the most aggressive and well-funded defense lawyers in the world- protecting their profits.  You need an experienced legal advocate in your corner who will fight to obtain the compensation you deserve for lost wages, medical expenses, transportation reimbursement and pain and suffering.  Call us today and speak with a cruise ship claims lawyer about your potential claim- toll free 1-866-597-4529, 305-441-0440, or by email. We are ready to help.

Source: CDC cruise guidelines: COVID booster shots recommended in protocols (usatoday.com)

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