Under previous orders, the CDC had recognized CLIA's voluntary 30-day suspension in cruise ship operations and therefore had chosen not to make the No Sail Order apply. This time, though, the CDC order applies to all cruise ships sailing territorial U.S. waters.
CLIA's suspension is in effect until essentially 15MAY, while the CDC's No Sail Order possibly runs through 19JUL, unless several conditions are met by cruise lines or public health concerns about COVID-19 substantially change.
This CLIA extension, on its own, will not substantially impact current plans by most cruise lines.
For instance, Carnival Cruise Line had announced earlier that it was pausing until 11MAY (which was recently extended to 27JUN following the No Sail Order), and Royal Caribbean's global sailings had already been suspended until at least 11MAY.
"Concerned About Consequences"
In response to the CDC's No Sail Order, CLIA has issued a statement critical of the conditions in the order that must be met before cruise lines can sail again.
The CDC No Sail Order was full of tidbits highlighting problems for the cruise industry, as some of the wording in the CDC statement leaves the impression that cruise ships are breeding grounds for COVID-19.
"COVID-19 clusters and outbreaks continue to accrue in connection with cruise ships… The addition of further COVID-19 cases from cruise ships places healthcare workers at substantial increased risk," notes the CDC order.
"The CDC is currently aware of 15 cruise ships at port or anchorage in the United States with known or suspected COVID-19 infection among the crew who remain on board."
In its statement Friday, CLIA said it is concerned about the unintended consequences the No Sail Order has in singling out the cruise industry, "which has been proactive in its escalation of health and sanitation protocols and was one of the first industries to announce a voluntary suspension of operations."
CLIA also stated that "while it’s easy to focus on cruising because of its high profile, the fact is cruising is neither the source nor cause of the virus nor its spread.
"What is different about the cruise industry is the very stringent reporting requirements applicable to vessels that do not apply to comparable venues on land, where the spread of communicable disease is just as prevalent. It would be a false assumption to connect higher frequency and visibility in reporting to a higher frequency of infection."