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The cruise could restart in mid-summer in U.S. waters, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a letter to the cruise industry from USA TODAY on Wednesday.

“We recognize that cruising will never be a zero risk activity and that the goal of the CSO’s phased approach is to resume passenger operations in a manner that mitigates the risk of COVID-19 transmission on board aircraft. cruise ships and in port communities, “Aimee Treffiletti said in the letter the chief of the maritime unit for the CDC’s response to COVID-19 in its global working group on COVID-19 mitigation .

In a statement regarding the letter, spokesperson Caitlin Shockey gave USA TODAY a more specific timeline. Cruises could begin passenger travel from the United States in mid-July, depending on the pace of cruise lines and compliance with the CDC’s conditional navigation control framework.

The Carnival Vista cruise ship is seen sailing during a full pink Super Moon in Miami Beach on April 26, 2021.

“CDC hopes to continue to engage with the industry and urges cruise lines to submit Phase 2A port agreements as soon as possible to maintain the passenger travel schedule by mid-July,” Shockey said.

A source familiar with the situation but not authorized to speak officially told USA TODAY that the industry is cautiously optimistic about the future after receiving the letter from the CDC, after more than a year of not navigating the waters Americans due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The letter follows a month of twice-weekly meetings with representatives of the cruise industry. During these meetings, the industry and the health agency discussed the conditional navigation order.

While the CDC has outlined a potential restart date for cruises departing from U.S. ports this summer, that doesn’t mean the restrictions on the cruise are lifted. The CDC has clarified its guidelines based on industry feedback and still expects cruise lines to meet its requirements before shipping can resume.

Based on industry feedback, the CDC landed on five clarifications to its additional guidance released on April 2 to allow for a resumption of shipping:

  • Ships can bypass required simulated test trips carrying volunteers and jump to crossings with paying passengers if 98% of crew and 95% of passengers are fully immunized.

  • The CDC will review and respond to cruise line requests for simulated travel within 5 days, a review that was previously expected to last 60 days.

  • The CDC will update its testing and quarantine requirements for passengers and crew on crossings with revenue passengers to align with CDC guidelines for fully vaccinated people. So, for example, instead of having a PCR lab test before boarding, vaccinated passengers can have a rapid antigen test when boarding.

  • The CDC clarified that cruise ship operators can enter into a “multi-port agreement” rather than a single port agreement as long as all port and local authorities sign the agreement.

  • The CDC has clarified guidelines on quarantine guidelines for passengers who may be exposed to or contract COVID-19. For example, local passengers may be able to drive home, and passengers who have traveled by plane for a cruise may be quarantined in a hotel.

USA TODAY has reached out to Cruise Lines International Association, the industry’s leading trading group, for comment.

Whether to restart cruising in the United States under pressure from all sides

Over the past month or so, the CDC has come under pressure from multiple sides over whether to restart or suspend.

At the end of March, the cruise industry lobbied for the CDC to lift its conditional navigation order, calling the agency’s restrictions “outdated.” Other members of the travel industry have also expressed support for an accelerated return to sailing.

And politicians have also played a tightrope with the issue. Some lawmakers are pushing the CDC to allow the restart of cruises while others are asking the agency to continue not to allow ships to navigate due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19.

In a letter sent earlier this month, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., And Representative Doris Matsui, D-California, urged CDC’s Walensky to maintain current restrictions on cruises.

Their letter follows a Florida lawsuit against the CDC, which Alaska joined, and new legislation proposed by Republicans Rick Scott and Marco Rubio of Florida and Dan Sullivan of Alaska to override restrictions. of the CDC on the cruise and sail the ships by July.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg also spoke about the slow restart of the cruise industry during a White House press briefing on April 9, saying he knew the CDC “hoped” that cruise lines will be able to sail by midsummer.

“Well, the bottom line is safety,” he said. “Planes have one safety profile; cruise ships have another, vehicles have another. And each should be treated on the basis of what is safe for that industry.”

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: CDC to Cruise Industry: US cruises could potentially restart in July

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