CDC lowers COVID-19 warning level

2022-02-16T14:15:59+00:00 February 16th, 2022|Safety|

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) has lowered its warning level for travelling on a cruise ship.

It has dropped the warning from Level 4 to Level 3, ie from ‘Very High’ to ‘High’.

This means that people not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 should avoid travelling on a cruise ship, but it does not go as far as warning against cruise ship travel for everyone, Royal Caribbean explained in a blog.

The CDC’s four warning levels are:

Level 4 = Very high level of COVID-19
Level 3 = High level of COVID-19
Level 2 = Moderate level of COVID-19
Level 1 = Low level of COVID-19

It made the change based on its Travel Health Notice Level, which is drawn on two factors:

  • Cumulative new COVID-19 crew case counts over the past 14 days.
  • If cases among crew members are increasing, decreasing, or remaining the same.

A level 3 warning means that cumulative new case counts over the past 14 days are between 1,000 – 2,000, and cumulative new symptomatic case counts over the past 14 days are between 500 – 999.

This move was flagged up by Royal Caribbean executives in an earnings call with Wall Street investors on 4th February.

During the call, RCI President and CEO, Michael Bayley, (pictured) said he expected the change, “We also believe that in the not too distant future, the CDC Level four will be downgraded to Level three, and I think that will also be another positive step in the right direction.”

Immediately after the CDC announcement, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) issued a statement supporting the change.

CLIA was extremely critical of the CDC’s policies towards the cruise industry, but said this new change is a “step in the right direction”.

“The decision by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to lower the Travel Health Notice threat level for cruise ships is a step in the right direction and recognises the leadership and effectiveness of the cruise sector’s health and safety protocols that are unmatched by virtually any other commercial setting.”

CLIA also pointed to the fact that the lowering of the warning is a direct result of the effective health protocols the cruise industry has employed to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

“Cruise ships  have medical, isolation and quarantine facilities on site, implement extensive response plans using private shoreside resources, and have created an environment where almost every single person is fully vaccinated.

“As a result, cases of COVID-19 are very low with the vast majority mild or asymptomatic—making cruise unequaled in its multi-layered approach to effectively mitigating COVID-19,” the association said

The lowering came less than a week after the cruise industry had slammed the CDC’s guidance update.

On 9th February, the CDC unveiled the terms of its voluntary COVID-19 programme for cruise ships to follow. It was met almost immediately by a backlash from cruise lines that viewed it as out of touch with society’s approach to COVID currently, RCI said.

Despite COVID numbers falling precipitously on ships (and on land), the agency continued to urge the public against cruise ship travel for the fully vaccinated because in their view, the chances of getting COVID on a cruise ship was “very high”.

CLIA went as far as to call out the Centre for being “unnecessarily discriminatory” against the cruise industry.

CLIA also said COVID-positive cases on cruise ships have seen a dramatic drop lately and that cases on cruise ships are 80 times lower than on land in the US, the blog concluded.