You may have heard the term ‘CDC’ in relation to cruise recently, even more in the past couple of weeks with Mike Pence making a statement to over-rule them, but are you wondering ‘Who is the CDC and why are they stopping cruising anyway??’
It’s a very good question…so let me explain.
NB: The information below is taken from their updated statements as of 30 September 2020
Who is the CDC?
CDC stands for ‘Centers for Disease Control and Prevention‘ (I’m guessing the ‘Prevention’ was a later addition!). They are one of the major operating components for the Department of Health and Human Services, a health protection agency for the nation (US).
What does the CDC do?
Their role is to protect all Americans from the risk of diseases, health and safety threats, both domestic and international. They do this through preparing healthcare workers, research, education, and supporting the front line workers and Government officials.
Why do they have the authority to allow cruises to operate?
It starts in 1944 with the passage of the Public Health Service Act into US Federal Law. Under this law, the Federal Government has the authority to quarantine for the first time and it gave the US Public Health Service the responsibility of preventing the spreading of transmittable diseases from foreign countries into the USA.
The US Public Health Service is made up of many divisions within the Department of Human and Health Services, one of which is the CDC. Under section 361 of the Public Health Service Act, the US Secretary of Health and Human Services is authorised to manage the prevention of communicable diseases entering and being spread within the US from foreign countries.
The authority for carrying out these functions on a daily basis has been allocated to the CDC.
The Vessel Sanitation Program
Jump forward to the 1970s when the CDC developed the VSP, Vessel Sanitation Program as a “cooperative activity with the cruise ship industry”. Essentially, it was created to manage the outbreak of gastrointestinal diseases, because ships were in foreign waters and therefore it fell under their authority of ‘preventing diseases from foreign countries’.
This program operated in all major US Ports from the 1970s to 1986 when parts of the program were terminated by the CDC.
Pressure from the public and cruising industry led to the Congress ordering the CDC to resume the VSP program, and as a result, the National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH) at CDC became responsible for the VSP.
This has led to the CDC having a key role in cruise ships being authorised to sail in the US.
What is the “No Sail” Order?
Under the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Public Service Health Acts under the CDC, they have the ability to create policies which are necessary to prevent the spread of transmittable diseases from foreign countries into the US.
It was first introduced following the outbreak of Covid-19 on Diamond Princess and Grand Princess in January 2020 but has continued to be extended.
The first No Sail Order was put in place on 14 March, extended until April 15, then further extended to July 16 and currently until 31 October. This order applies to all commercial cruise ships with the capacity of over 250 passengers, including crew staying overnight and who operate under the US jurisdiction, or who operate in foreign waters but plan to enter US waters whilst the Order is in place. It does not apply to cargo ships.
The order is currently in effect until one of the following happens:
* The Secretary of Health and Human Services declares that Covid-19 is no longer a public health emergency
* The CDC Director modifies the order based on health considerations
* 31 October 2020
The CDC’s Rules for Ships
The CDC states that the high density of passengers on cruise ships makes them more susceptible to outbreaks of Covid-19, in particular, by crew in close living quarters who could carry the disease from voyage to voyage.
They are concerned also that guests from cruises are travelling through many countries, potentially spreading the disease globally too.
As part of the No Sail Order, all cruise ships are required to provide comprehensive plans on how they will prevent and combat onboard diseases and the spread of Covid 19, and a colour coded system has been initiated to grade how high a risk each ship is and what instructions are to be followed for their crew onboard.
These plans include mandatory masks, removal of buffet dining areas, reduction in passenger numbers, enforced quarantine for all crew members before joining ships, and many more.
Photo courtesy of Fortune.com
Mike Pence Overrules Additional Extension
So what’s the latest? Well, the CDC has advised that the No Sail order should continue into February 2021 as they don’t believe that Covid-19 can be controlled enough for guests to be kept safe and for the disease to not continue spreading globally through cruise travel.
The White House is ignoring this advice and has instructed the order to finish 31 October 2020 and to allow the cruises to operate again, under their submitted plans for guest safety.
This is great news for the cruise industry, one which has seen over 100,000 crew members stranded at sea since March, as per New York Daily News. But it is a wise decision from a passenger safety perspective?
Photo courtesy of TheGuardian.com
Do you feel safe to get back on a ship for your next cruise, or will you be waiting for the pandemic to be completely over? Do you think cruises can manage to keep the disease at bay, or are we just asking for another outbreak?
I’d love to know your views on this controversial subject, please drop them below and I’ll respond to all.
Thanks for reading – see you next time!
Wendy A x
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