The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on March 14 lowered its COVID-19 warning for cruise ships from “high” to “moderate” amid a decline in the number of cases across the United States.
The agency lowered the Travel Health Notices (THN) from Level 3 to Level 2, or from high to moderate, but noted that this decision is reflective of the status of the COVID-19 pandemic at this time, and warned travelers booking cruise travel now that this level may change as the pandemic evolves.
However, the agency still recommends individuals boarding a cruise ship to make sure they are “up to date” with COVID-19 vaccines before doing so, noting that the risk of contracting the virus is still “moderate” even for individuals who are up to date with all their shots.
“Getting vaccinated is still the best way to protect yourself from severe disease, slow the spread of COVID-19, and reduce the number of new variants,” the agency said.
“If you are not up to date with COVID-19 vaccines and are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, avoid cruise ship travel,” the agency added.
The agency said that outbreaks of COVID-19 have been reported on cruise ships and encouraged individuals to check the cruise ship’s color code and vaccination status classification before boarding.
The CDC updated its guidance on Feb. 9 encouraging cruise ships operating in U.S. waters to choose to participate in a COVID-19 color-coding program aimed at helping passengers make an “informed decision” before traveling.
Under the color code program, each ship is given a color status indicating the percentage of those on board who are vaccinated.
Under the program, cruise ships that are participating and have at least 95 percent of those on board “up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines” will receive a “vaccination standard of excellence” while those with less than 95 percent of fully vaccinated passengers and crew members will be classified as “not highly vaccinated.”
Elsewhere in its updated guidance on March 14, the CDC noted that outbreaks of COVID-19 have been reported on cruise ships and additionally recommended that passengers still get tested for the virus no more than 3 days before they travel and between 3–5 days after their cruise, regardless of their vaccination status.
Those who test positive should still isolate for five days.
While on board the cruise, the CDC recommends that passengers wear face masks, noting that some cruise lines may require travelers and crew members to do so.
The latest updated guidances comes as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to decline in the United States, prompting a number of states to loosen certain restrictions, such as mask mandates.
As of March 14, the nation’s 7-day moving average of daily new cases was 32, 458, according to CDC data.
Earlier this month, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said she expects COVID-19 to become a seasonal virus like influenza, adding that officials may consider recommending or mandating masks during such periods.
“Maybe during [the] respiratory season, if things ramped up, we would want to put on our masks again to protect both from flu and from COVID and from all other respiratory diseases,” Walensky said.
While cases numbers continue to decline in the United States, China is battling with a new wave of COVID-19 cases, despite the Chinese Communist Party’(CCP) implementing a strick “zero COVID” policy which includes measures such as mass testing, digital surveillance, mandatory isolation, and targeted lockdowns in an effort to control outbreaks.