ATLANTA - The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued the next phase of its conditional sail order for cruise ship operators Friday.
The order "will include simulated (trial) voyages that will allow crew and port personnel to practice new COVID-19 operational procedures with volunteers before sailing with passengers," according to a news release.
The agency said the second phase also provides "technical instructions" on daily reporting of COVID-19 cases, routine testing for crew members, vaccinating crew and port personnel, planning to have the necessary infrastructure and resources in place should an outbreak occur. The second phase will also update the color-coding system used to determine a ship’s status with regards to COVID-19.
The CDC didn’t say when cruises could fully resume operations in U.S. waters but said it depends on how many people are vaccinated.
The cruise industry has been essentially closed for business since mid-March 2020, when it became clear that the deadly and contagious virus had already been sweeping through the U.S. unabated for weeks. The cruise association estimates that the suspension of cruises snuffed out more than $25 billion in economic activity, and 164,000 American jobs.
Shares in the major cruise line companies started to decline in February 2020 as the virus spread, and hit bottom in mid-March when the U.S. economy effectively shut down. Companies have suffered billions in losses this year, wiping out more than 70% of their value.
The CDC reported Saturday that nearly 60 million Americans have been vaccinated, representing 18% of the total U.S. population.
Several cruise ship companies have announced that passengers would need to be fully vaccinated before coming onboard. They include Royal Carribean, Virgin Voyages and Crystal Cruises.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.