The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today raised its COVID-19 travel health notice to the highest level, from Level 3 to Level 4, and urged all US residents to avoid any cruise travel regardless of whether they are vaccinated against COVID-19 virus or not.
New CDC warning reflects a surge in new COVID-19 infection cases among the passengers and crew members onboard cruise ships since the arrival of the new Omicron strain of the virus.
The spike in new COVID-19 cases fueled by Omicron strain of the virus dramatically affected cruise operators. Some cruise ships have even been denied entry at various ports of call after passengers and crew members tested positive for the coronavirus.
The CDC also said that the number of cruise ships meeting the agency’s threshold for investigation is on the rise. Currently, 88 cruise ships are under investigation or observation by the CDC after the reported COVID-19 outbreaks on board.
The close quarters on ships can allow COVID-19 virus to spread rapidly, increasing the chance of cruise passengers being infected, according to the CDC. Data from the agency shows that 5,013 COVID-19 cases were reported by cruise ships between December 15 and December 29, compared to the 162 cases reported between November 30 and December 14.
According to the CDC, anyone who does travel on a cruise shop should be fully vaccinated beforehand and receive a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose.
Cruise travelers also should be tested for COVID-19 one to three days before their trip and three to five days upon return, regardless of their vaccination status or symptoms.
Passengers who are not fully vaccinated should self-quarantine for a fully five days after cruise travel, regardless of the test results, the CDC said.
Travelers also advised to keep their noses and mouths covered with a mask while they are in shared spaces.
Individual cruise line operators may also require travelers, passengers and crew to wear masks while they are on board ships.
New advisement comes on the heels of recent changes to the CDC’s quarantine guidelines as the number of new COVID-19 cases continue to grow.
Under the new guidelines, people with COVID-19 should isolate for 5 days and if they are asymptomatic or their symptoms are resolving. They should continue wearing a mask while around others for the following five days to minimize the risk of infection.
According to the latest CDC data, the majority of COVID-19 transmission happens early, generally in first one to two days before the onset of symptoms and the two to three days after.