CDC extends ban on cruise ships until October 31
Hours before the No Sail Order was set to expire, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has extended the ban on cruise ships by another thirty days.
The CDC website has been updated to indicate the No Sail Order has been extended until October 31, 2020, unless rescinded earlier.
On September 30, 2020, CDC extended the No Sail Order and Suspension of Further Embarkation; Third Modification and Extension of No Sail Order and Other Measures Related to Operations that was issued on July 16, 2020. The Order is effective upon signature and will be published in the Federal Register soon.
Prior to this extension, the "No Sail Order" was set to expire on September 30 at midnight, although Royal Caribbean and all the cruise lines have already voluntarily cancelled its cruises through October 31, 2020, with the intention to possibly resume November 1.
The extension matches an earlier report that the White House overruled CDC Director Robert Redfield's recommendation of extending the No Sail Order until February 2021.
According to the report, Redfield wanted to push the No Sail order out to February 2021, but the Trump administration would only allow an extension through the end of October 2020.
Vice President Mike Pence informed the CDC Director of a different plan than what the agency had in mind, according to the two task force members.
The No Sail order has been a legislative, as well as symbolic, barrier to the cruise industry restarting. Royal Caribbean has been shutdown since mid-March, and the No Sail order has been a major obstacle to any restart plan.
This is the third time the "No Sail Order" has been extended, after first being implemented on March 13.
What is the No Sail Order?
The No Sail Order is a policy of the CDC that restricts the embarkation of passengers on top cruise ships in the United States due to the global health crisis.
Like the previous orders, this order will remain in effect until one of the following occurs:
- The expiration of the Secretary of Health and Human Services’ declaration that COVID-19 constitutes a public health emergency,
- The CDC Director rescinds or modifies the order based on specific public health or other considerations, or
- October 31, 2020.
Cruise industry's plan for healthy return
Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings teamed up to form an independent committee to come up with a way for cruise ships to operate in a healthy manner, known as the Healthy Sail Panel.
In late September, the Panel produced a list of 74 detailed steps on how a cruise ship could operate safely despite the current health crisis.
Recommendations include testing, the use of face coverings, and enhanced sanitation procedures on ships and in terminals.
The Panel is chaired by Governor Mike Leavitt, former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The Healthy Sail Panel identified five areas of focus every cruise operator should address to improve health and safety for guests and crew, and reduce the risk of infection and spread of COVID-19 on cruise ships:
- Testing, Screening and Exposure Reduction
- Sanitation and Ventilation
- Response, Contingency Planning and Execution
- Destination and Excursion Planning
- Mitigating Risks for Crew Members
In each category, the Healthy Sail Panel created practical and actionable recommendations to address specific safety concerns. Among the recommendations are key strategies such as:
- Taking aggressive measures to prevent SARS-CoV-2 from entering a ship through robust education, screening and testing of both crew and guests prior to embarkation
- Reducing transmission via air management strategies and enhanced sanitation practices
- Implementing detailed plans to address positive infection on board, including contingencies for onboard treatment, isolation and rapid evacuation and repatriation
- Closely controlling shore excursions
- Enhanced protection for crew members
Furthermore, the CDC has been made aware of the panel and even invited to observe the planning and creation of procedures.