Johanna Jainchill
Johanna Jainchill

The first large cruise ships are setting sail from Italy, while smaller ships have already launched from Norway and Germany.

In fact, the EU came out with its cruise line guidance two months ago. So why is it that here in the U.S., the CDC is still far from putting together a plan for cruise lines to safely return to service?

In early August, there was hope that the CDC and the cruise industry were beginning to come together around how to resume cruising safely. But the CDC's call for the public to submit recommendations on the topic, and giving them through Sept. 21 to do so, would indicate that guidance will not be forthcoming quickly. If its experts are going to sift through the thousands of entries -- not to mention the detailed plans each cruise line must submit for resumption of sailing -- it will be long after September before we hear anything definitive.

And quite a few industry stakeholders were incredulous that the CDC would ask the general public to weigh in on something that should be determined by scientists and medical professionals.

Josh Friedman, CEO of California-based Josh Friedman Luxury Travel, said he read the CDC request for information questions "because I thought I would respond per the CLIA request. But I can't. I'm a travel agent, not a scientist.

"It's insane that the CDC is asking the average person to tell them what the proper protocol should be," he added. "Yes, people have a lot of opinions. But how on earth would anybody know what is safe and what is not safe if it's not scientifically researched?"

Another person took the CDC to task in their comment. "We believe that the CDC team of scientific experts working together with their cruise line counterparts are better prepared to create and provide sensible procedures and plans in a time efficient manner than non-medical or [non-]health professionals."

But should the industry be surprised by this solicitation of non-scientific input? Last week, the agency appeared to flip-flop twice when it came to guidance on testing. First, after what has been characterized as a response to political pressure, it reversed its previous advice that anyone exposed to Covid-19 should be tested, even if they were asymptomatic. Later in the week, after a barrage of criticism from medical policy professionals, CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield walked back the change, saying that "all close contacts of confirmed or probable Covid-19 patients" may consider testing.

As former CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden told NBC News, "This is a black eye for the CDC. They've got materials on their website that really can't be scientifically justified."

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