As time goes on and cruise lines are desperate for revenue, they now look for ships docked in ports outside the United States. This is a blow to U.S. ports and the thousands of workers in South Florida, Alaska and elsewhere who depend on this industry.
As a result, the pressure on the public health service to make progress is increasing.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Danielle Levin Cava is the latest leader demanding answers. In a letter to CDC Director Rochelle Walenski, she urged the resumption of cruises in July, which would coincide with President Biden’s push to get the company back in business for Independence Day on the 4th. July to reopen.
In the letter, Mayor Cava emphasizes the vital role that cruise ships play in South Florida’s economy and praises the strict protocols that cruise lines have adopted to ensure safe operations.
READ MORE: Royal Caribbean says departures from the United States could begin in July.
Waleski of the CDC faced questions from Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska during a recent hearing. Ms. Murkowski leads a state that, for the second year in a row, will not welcome 1.3 million summer visitors. Their visits support many small local businesses and thousands of jobs.
Alaska leads the way in COVID-19 vaccination, with nearly 20% of residents fully vaccinated and nearly 30% having received at least their first vaccination. But Murkowski says Alaskans who depend on tourism are struggling financially and need to know if there is any hope of saving at least part of the cruise season.
Walenski’s answers caught people’s attention. She told Ms. Murkowski that the CDC cannot propose a timetable because the organization is not the only one involved in the decision.
This is an interagency decision. It’s not just the CDC making that decision, Walenski told Murkowski. I would be unhappy if I did it myself, because the decision is not just ours.
READ MORE: US-flagged cruise lines will still be able to operate cruises in Alaska in 2021.
So who decides the fate of the cruise lines anymore? Ms. Walenski, who was recently appointed, was a bit vague in her answer.
I think [the Department of Transportation, OMB (Office of Management and Budget); there are a lot of other people that make these decisions.
Cruise lines estimate it takes 90 days for ships to be ready for guests, and the Alaska season only lasts until late September. The time ships need to be ready to receive customers is getting shorter to save the year.
Ms. Walenski told Ms. Murkowski that she understands the economic impact of a boating ban, as well as conditional boating bans and travel restrictions: We don’t take it lightly.
Murkowski’s response: We understand and respect that, but we’re just trying to make sense of the times.
In a letter, Mayor Cava promised to support Miami-Dade County in working with the CDC to develop a plan to safely reopen the cruise industry.
One of the CDC’s main concerns related to cruise ships is the potential spread of COWID on cruise ships to port workers and local communities. The mayor said an important step in addressing these concerns is the plan to establish the first COWID testing laboratory on PortMiami property.
Our district already operates under the health and safety protocols established by the CDC, with ongoing communication between PortMiami, the cruise industry and CDC Quarantine Miami.
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