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CDC no longer reporting COVID-19 cases on cruise ships to the public: What to know

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has ended its COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships.

The CDC announced the end of its program on Monday, July 18, through its Cruise Ship Travel webpage, meaning the national health agency will no longer report coronavirus levels on commercial cruise ships that sail through American waters. 

Coronavirus levels on cruise ships were identified through a color-coding system that reflected the number of positive COVID-19 tests among the crew who boarded within a 14-day span. 

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Green ships reportedly met a criterion that meant ships had a crew that tested negative and did not transfer from a high-risk (red) ship, land-based crew quarantined for two weeks after embarking on a ship and the crew submitted daily Enhanced Data Collection During COVID-19 forms to the CDC.

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The CDC said cruise lines will adhere to their own COVID-19 testing standards, but the CDC will continue to provide testing recommendations. (iStock / iStock)

Yellow ships had test results available within one week and reassessed statuses using the updated test results they received while adhering to the CDC’s Cruise Ship Color-Coding Status Guide. If a yellow ship failed to return results within one week, the ship was coded to red.

Orange ships tested unvaccinated crew on weekly basis and vaccinated crew on a bi-weekly basis while red ships tested crew on a weekly basis regardless of vaccination status if passengers were onboard.

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Cruise ships that were marked as gray were opted out of the CDC’s COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships, which left the CDC unable to report on a ship’s health and safety protocols.

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This color-coding system has been “retired” now that the CDC has ended its COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships.

The CDC said the program’s color-coding depended on each cruise line having the same COVID-19 screening testing standards, but now these standards may vary by the cruise line. 

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Cruise passengers will need to contact cruise lines directly if they want to know COVID-19 outbreak statuses. (iStock / iStock)

“[The] CDC has worked closely with the cruise industry, state, territorial, and local health authorities, and federal and seaport partners to provide a safer and healthier environment for cruise passengers and crew,” the health agency wrote about its program’s end.

“Cruise ships have access to guidance and tools to manage their own COVID-19 mitigation programs,” the CDC continued. “Additionally, cruise travelers have access to recommendations that allow them to make informed decisions about cruise ship travel.”

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The CDC noted that it considers cruising to be an activity that “poses some risk of COVID-19 transmission,” but the agency will continue to publish safety guidance to help cruise ships and passengers.

Travelers who plan on taking a cruise will need to contact a cruise line directly to inquire about ship outbreaks, the CDC said.

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The CDC still recommends mask wear and hand sanitizers for travelers while COVID-19 infections persist. (iStock / iStock)

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The CDC noted that it will continue to provide testing recommendations for cruise lines.

Health and safety precautions the CDC still recommends for cruise travelers include frequent hand-washing or hand-sanitizing, wearing properly fitted masks in indoor or crowded areas, keeping a physical distance from people outside your travel party along and getting tested and vaccinated for COVID-19. 

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As of Tuesday, July 19, the CDC’s COVID Data Tracker says the U.S. has a daily average of 122,639 new coronavirus cases. 

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