The CDC extended its Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) through Jan. 15, 2022, citing the continued spread of the delta variant of Covid-19 and breakthrough cases among fully vaccinated people.
The CSO had been scheduled to expire on Nov. 1.
When the CSO eventually expires, the CDC said it intends to transition to what it calls a voluntary program in coordination with cruise ship operators and other stakeholders, to assist the industry in detecting, mitigating and controlling the spread of Covid-19 on ships.
The CDC said that in extending the CSO, it did not make major changes, and said it does not view the extension as imposing "any new burdens or obligations on cruise ship operators when compared to the previous CSO."
The CDC acknowledged that since the issuance of the CSO in November 2020, cruise lines had resumed passenger operations and "successfully developed and implemented health and safety protocols to manage Covid-19 that have averted overwhelming onboard medical facilities and burdening shoreside hospital resources."
"However, considering the continued spread of the delta variant, emergence of other Covid-19 variants of concern, breakthrough cases among the fully vaccinated, and possible additional surges of cases and deaths, CDC has determined a temporary extension of the CSO is necessary for foreign- flagged cruise ships operating on international itineraries."
Commenting on the news, CLIA said in a statement that the decision shows that the Biden administration and the CDC recognize the cruise industry’s successful resumption of operations.
"We look forward to demonstrating the industry’s continued leadership in this final phase of the CSO, and to carrying out a smooth transition when the order comes to an end on 15 January 2022," CLIA said.
The CSO will expire on Jan. 15 or upon the expiration of the Secretary of Health and Human Services' declaration that Covid-19 constitutes a public health emergency.
The CDC noted that as of July 23, the CSO and accompanying measures are nonbinding recommendations for cruise ships operating in Florida, which sued the CDC over the CSO. However, almost every cruise line operating in Florida has chosen to abide by the CSO voluntarily.