CDC monitoring after discovery of COVID-19 on Carnival, Royal Caribbean ships in Galveston

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The Independence of the Seas, the first cruise ship operated by Royal Caribbean International from Galveston since the pandemic shut down a COVID-stricken cruise industry, returned to port on Thursday after a mock four-day trip with voluntary passengers.

The trip to test COVID-19 protocols was aimed at securing approval from more unvaccinated passengers than would otherwise be permitted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Under CDC rules, cruise lines can restart by making sure 95% of crew and passengers are vaccinated, or by proving they can sail without an outbreak.

Both options may become more difficult than expected by cruise lines, as the delta variant leads to a resurgence of the pandemic with infections among those vaccinated.

According to the CDC, on Thursday, all three Galveston-based cruise ships, including the Independence of the Seas and two Carnival ships offering vaccinated cruises, reported positive COVID-19 test results.

The CDC is investigating the Carnival Vista, a 3,940-passenger vessel whose July 3 excursion marked the return of cruises to Galveston, after triggering the threshold of 1 crew and 3 passengers on board. The agency recently investigated and is now monitoring sister ship Carnival Breeze, and is also monitoring Independence of the Seas.

A spokesperson for Carnival Cruise Line confirmed on Wednesday that a “small number” of people tested positive for COVID-19 while on a vaccinated cruise aboard the Vista. Those who tested positive have been isolated and contacts traced, said the spokesperson, who did not immediately confirm the number of cases.

Carnival, which hopes to maintain the immunization levels required by the CDC in order to navigate without restrictive public health measures, allowed vaccinated passengers to board without masks. But laws in the states of Texas and Florida prohibiting companies from requiring proof of vaccination led Carnival to require the small number of unvaccinated passengers on board to pay health costs and obtain travel insurance.

In response to the Carnival Vista cases, the cruise line is now requiring masks in certain interior areas, the spokesperson said.

Royal Caribbean International, Galveston’s other year-round cruise line, has charted a different course following CDC rules and customer demand. The cruise line said it has opted for trial trips so it can accommodate more families with children under 12, who cannot be vaccinated.

The Independence of the Seas, returning to Galveston, is booked for its first commercial cruise on August 15th. But despite the name, whether the ship can sail will depend on how many cases the CDC uncovers among the crew and passenger volunteers the following week. his test cruise.

charlie.zong@chron.com


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