'Chance of getting COVID-19 on cruise ships is moderate,' CDC says in new assessment
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lowered its risk assessment of cruising.
Cruise ships are now considered a Level 2 destination with "moderate" levels of COVID-19.
The CDC ranks international destinations with known coronavirus levels into four tiers, with Level 1 being "low" and Level 4 being "very high" for risk.
Even though the risk is now lower, the CDC encourages passengers to get fully vaccinated before cruise travel and take other precautionary measures like wearing face masks indoors (outside of their cabins) and in crowded outdoor spaces.
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"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 CDC said in its updated Travel Health Notice Monday. "The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads easily between people in close quarters on board ships, and the chance of getting COVID-19 on cruise ships is moderate, even if you are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines."
Cruise Lines International Association, the cruise industry's largest trade association, stressed the "robust mitigation efforts" in place on ships in a statement via spokesperson Laziza Lambert:
Cruise Lines International Association members continue to sail with some of the highest levels of COVID-19 mitigation, with effective health and safety protocols that are unmatched by virtually any other commercial setting. As a result, the vast majority of cases that have occurred have been mild and addressed swiftly based on prearranged response plans.
The CDC encourages travelers to be mindful of changing conditions and check their cruise ship's color code and vaccination status before departing. Color codes, for cruises that opted into the CDC's Conditional Sailing Order, indicate whether the number of coronavirus cases reported on a given ship merit CDC investigation.
The Conditional Sailing Order is voluntary. Vessels operating in U.S. waters and sailing international itineraries that choose not to participate will be classified as "gray" on the health agency's "Cruise Ship Color Status" website to indicate the CDC hasn't reviewed the health and safety protocols put in place by that ship's operator. Cruise ships that opt-out and sail only in U.S. waters will not be listed at all.
Contributing: Morgan Hines, USA TODAY