Washington, D.C. – Tuesday, Congressman Don Young and a bipartisan group of his House colleagues sent a letter to White House COVID-19 Coordinator Jeffrey Zients, calling on the CDC and the Administration to set fair and consistent national COVID-19 policy based on facts and science and to stop unduly punishing communities reliant on a strong cruise economy.
The cruise industry resumed sailings last June. With testing and vaccination rates significantly higher than locations on land, over 2 million cruise passengers have set sail with only a handful of COVID-19 cases requiring hospitalization. The industry has met and, in many cases, voluntarily exceeded the goals and requirements set by the CDC to resume cruising. Nevertheless, last week, the CDC under the auspices of transitioning to a “Voluntary COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships Operating in U.S. Waters” imposed new and confusing COVID-19 protocols on top of the existing Level 4 travel advisory. The rollout of this new program did not represent progress commensurate with the progress of societal public health conditions. In fact, the CDC continues to treat the cruise industry the same as prisons, nursing homes, and homeless shelters – congregate settings with risk levels much higher than cruise ships and no CDC requirement to utilize the mitigation measures the cruise industry currently employs.
Excerpts from the letter:
“We write today with great concern regarding the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) new COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships and the continued Level 4 Travel Advisory for cruise ships. This position is not backed by facts or science, does not meaningfully improve public health outcomes, and unfairly punishes constituents and businesses who rely on the cruise industry for their livelihood.
The cruise industry restarted operations in the United States, last June. Since that time, more than 100 cruise ships have returned to U.S. waters, carrying more than two million people. Unlike other comparable industries in the travel and tourism sector that are not subject to the CDC’s Level 4 travel warning, the cruise industry utilizes comprehensive protocols to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including testing, vaccination, screening, sanitation, mask-wearing, and other science-backed measures. In fact, testing rates on cruise ships are more than 20 times greater than the testing rate on land, and vaccination rates onboard a cruise ship significantly outpace land-based environments, with many ships having upwards of 100 percent of passengers and crew vaccinated. Indeed, these rates of testing and vaccinations far exceed what has been done on land. No doubt, these steps led to the industry’s successful operations during the Omicron surge. Not only were case rates lower than on land, but there were only a handful of cases that required hospitalization over this time, thus not burdening the U.S. health care system.
Yet, while the cruise industry has exceeded the goals established by the CDC, now the goalposts have been moved without a clear understanding of why the CDC is unilaterally choosing to do so and acting contrary to current public health trends, including CDC’s own recommendations for the general public. Again, no comparable requirements have been imposed on other industries or modes of transportation, and CDC’s continued micromanagement of cruise industry operations is far afield from this agency’s expertise and its ordinarily limited role as a federal regulator.”
Click here to read the full letter.