CDC director Rochelle Walensky, under questioning from Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski last week, seemed unsure as to what agency had jurisdiction over decisions concerning the timing of the agency's Conditional Sailing Order (CSO).

"This is an interagency decision, it is not a decision solely up to the CDC. The decision is not totally up to us," Walensky said.

The CDC implemented the CSO on Oct. 31, when it lifted its No Sail Order. It included four phases of requirements the cruise lines must adhere to in order to launch commercial cruises. However, the industry has been waiting months to get the technical guidance needed to get to the second phase, a series of trial sailings that test the company's Covid-related protocols in real time.

When further pressed about a timeline of the CSO, Walenksy said, "I can't, simply because I don't believe it's solely in our jurisdiction to address."

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Murkowski then asked who else besides the CDC is part of the decision-making process, to which Walenksy responded, "I believe Department of Transportation -- there are numerous others that are making these decisions."

Murkowski told Walenksy that not knowing when the CSO might be lifted was having a huge impact on Alaskan communities.

"[Alaskans] are asking for some kind of guidance in terms of timeline," she said. "It's the timeline so that you can know to plan. Do we go ahead -- the hundreds of small businesses that are reliant on these tourists coming [to Alaska]? Do they open up, or do they acknowledge that this is going to be the second season in a year where they will have nothing and effectively know whether to shutter their operations now?"

Walensky responded, "I understand the economic impact of the [CSO] ... So we don't take that lightly."

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