Does the CDC’s Cruise Ship Color Chart Still Serve a Purpose?

Most cruise ships in the US have COVID cases onboard but numbers are minimal, and cruising continues. Does the industry still need the CDC's cruise ship color chart?

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The CDC’s advice to avoid cruise ships in response to the surge of Omicron cases worldwide has cast a shadow over cruise ships once again. Again, voices are calling for an operational pause for the cruise industry while quoting the CDC ship’s status color chart as a benchmark.

However, how useful is this color chart? So far, not one cruise ship sailing in US waters has experienced an outbreak. Yes, all vessels with guests have had some cases onboard. However, these numbers are far behind the numbers shown anywhere in the United States.

91 Ships Sailing Under Yellow Condition, 3 Under Orange

If the CDC is genuinely looking at classifying the cruise industry and ships sailing by caseloads onboard, and not whether or not there is an investigation, if it wants the public to have an honest look at the current state of cruising, there are far better ways than what is presented now.

The CDC’s seems to be to paint a picture, again, of an industry that spreads COVID. It should be giving a transparent and open overview of how many cases are onboard each ship. It would show that cases are far behind anything shown ashore. Every vessel in the news has had  1% or fewer infections amongst the passengers and crew in the last two weeks.

CDC Ship Color Status
CDC Website

The yellow status means nothing more than at least 0.1% of the people onboard are confirmed with an infection. Let’s do the math on that. If a vessel carries 1,000 people in total, one person needs to have a positive COVID test for the vessel to be labeled yellow. For a ship with 5,000 people onboard? 5 people need to have a positive test to be labeled yellow. We’re not done yet; those positive tests are over a period of seven days.

If a ship has one crew member positive? Immediate yellow status. The dreaded Orange status that some media and government officials have quoted? It means the ship has reported cases of COVID-19 but is below the threshold for CDC investigation. The CDC needs to revise this list as soon as possible. It only acts to spread panic about an industry for which there is no basis.

CDC
Photo Credit: Brenda Rocha – Blossom / Shutterstock.com

Stopping Cruises is Not the Answer

The pandemic is far from over, and every day people suffer more and more. Horror stories are everywhere. However, blaming the cruise industry is not just wrong; it is laughable.

Not one industry has done more to keep its guests and employees as safe as the cruise industry. The industry is capable of monitoring, detecting, and responding to potential cases of COVID-19 faster than anyone.

Nowhere else have technological advances been implemented as fast as the cruise industry. Masks are mandated, vaccinations are mandatory, and are consistently at 95% or higher. Testing is done extensively; 10 million tests are done per week. This is more than 21 times the testing rate in the entire United States. The positive case rate onboard cruise ships is 33% lower than anywhere in the United States.

Cruise Ships in Miami, Florida
Photo Credit: VIAVAL TOURS / Shutterstock.com

To put this into context, this week, Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal said this: “The CDC is rightly sounding the alarm & affirming my warnings. Now we should stop cruises & dock ships before they become sailing super spreaders. This action is necessary to protect passengers, crew, & every place ships may visit.”

Senator Blumenthal fails to mention that in his state, 23,678 new cases were reported on January 3. Between December 21, 2021, and January 3, 2022, the state reported 72,091 new cases. It would seem then that the Senator should focus on his state instead of spreading rumors about the cruise industry to have his voice heard.

Senator Blumenthal reasons that if there is one case onboard a cruise ship, it is an outbreak. If there are 72,000 cases in 12 days, it is business as usual.

Where is the Industry Heading?

There is no logical, legal, or other reason for the cruise lines to be demonized and labeled superspreaders. The CDC’s travel advisory is one without basis. It is a panic reaction that should be treated as such. Senators such as Richard Blumenthal will need to come with hard facts and make sure they have their areas in order, which they don’t.

Testing at Norwegian Cruise Line
Testing at Norwegian Cruise Line

The reality is this since Omicron came about, the caseloads have increased onboard cruise ships; there is no denying the fact. However, these caseloads are nowhere near the amounts of cases ashore.

Since Omicron came about, there have not been any significant outbreaks on cruise ships. The cases onboard have been asymptomatic or with very light symptoms and hovered around the 1% mark of total guests and crew at most.

The cruise industry has shown it has set an unsurpassed standard worldwide. Millions of guests have sailed in the United States since June 2021. The cruise industry lost billions but also invested billions in safety features.

Also Read: 10 Reasons Why Cruise Ships Are Not Floating Petri Dishes

A cruise vacation is the safest option out there. As long as the cruise lines and the guests sailing onboard keep that spirit going, then there is nothing to worry about. If the CDC and politicians such as Richard Blumenthal get the overhand, then we could end up back where we were in March 2020, when thousands lost their jobs, and billions of dollars were lost. Be safe, wear a mask, get vaccinated. Other than that, have fun!

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