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Port Canaveral has become the first U.S. port to coordinate the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine to cruise ship crew members ahead of a possible return to cruising in July.
The US cruise industry has been closed since March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Vaccination of crew members will speed up the return to cruising.
According to the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cruise ships can bypass required simulated test trips carrying volunteers and switch to departures with paying passengers if 98% of crew and 95% of passengers are fully vaccinated.
The start of vaccination in Port Canaveral on Friday follows a public health advisory approved by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Surgeon General Scott Rivkees. This notice expanded vaccine eligibility in Florida to include people who are in the state to provide goods or services for the benefit of residents and visitors to Florida.
“We have been working closely with our cruise partners, the Florida Department of Health, and our port community to develop a plan and schedule for vaccinating cruise ship crews who may begin the return-to-cruise process. safe, “said Port Canaveral Chief Executive Officer John Murray said in a statement Friday night. “This expanded eligibility is very important to our cruise tourism business, and we are proud of our efforts to help this industry start and operate.”
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Port Canaveral officials have not disclosed which cruise line is to be involved in the effort first. But the Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Dream was the only cruise ship in Port Canaveral on Friday.
A number of other cruise ships are expected to dock at Port Canaveral in the coming weeks, so their crew members can receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
Port Canaveral was the second busiest cruise port in the world, behind Miami, in the number of cruise passengers before the pandemic. Four cruise lines had ships based in Port Canaveral before the pandemic: Carnival, Disney, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean. In addition, MSC Cruises had planned to start cruises departing from Port Canaveral last fall.
It is also possible that cruise ships that are not usually in Port Canaveral will dock there so that crew members can get vaccinated on board the ships.
Port Canaveral said it has developed its vaccination procedures in cooperation with the Parrish Healthcare Center, Canaveral Fire Rescue and cruise line medical staff.
The port said up to 1,000 shots per day could be given to the ship’s crew, as well as support staff on land and at the water’s edge.
The effort aligns with recommendations released late Wednesday by the CDC for a return to cruising in the United States.
Port Canaveral officials have consulted with the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and cruise line operators, as well as the CDC, to develop its vaccination model, which the port says is designed “to efficiently and quickly distribute vaccines to crew and shore personnel.”
CDC officials have released new guidelines allowing cruise ships to sail with vaccinated crew and passengers as early as mid-July.
The change to the restart schedule comes after a month of twice-weekly meetings between the CDC’s maritime team and the cruise industry and ports, including Port Canaveral.
Port Canaveral and the surrounding tourism industry are eager to revive the cruise business. Port Canaveral has lost about $ 101.6 million in cruise-related revenue since March 2020. Murray said about 80% of the port’s overall revenue is typically related to cruises.
In addition, the port reduced its staff by 43%, from 268 positions to 153. This was done through a combination of 68 permanent layoffs, 17 unpaid leaves and failure to fill 30 vacant positions. because of retirement or employees who have taken jobs elsewhere. .
The tourism industry in the nearby Cocoa Beach / Cape Canaveral area relies heavily on cruise passengers, who stay at local hotels, eat at local restaurants, and patronize other local businesses before or after their cruises.
Dave Berman is a business writer at FLORIDA TODAY. Follow him on Twitter @bydaveberman.
This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Port Canaveral Becomes First US Port To Begin Vaccinating Cruise Crews