Somewhat quietly last Friday, June 9th, the CDC and the Biden administration dropped the requirement for air travelers to have a negative COVID-19 test before departing to return to the United States.
While the CDC said they would review the decision in 90 days, it seems virtually impossible that you could put that horse back in the barn.
Just a few weeks ago, there was a New York Times story about the steps that some were taking to avoid the COVID testing requirement- which frankly shows how ineffective the testing strategy was. One could sail, drive or walk across the Canadian or Mexican border and avoid the testing mandate.
The entire pandemic response has been plagued with half-measures, reactionary and xenophobic policies, and this was just another example.
Cruise travel remains the only means of travel or entertainment that on a large scale requires vaccination. To adhere to the CDC "highly vaccinated" standard, ships must have a minimum of 90% of passengers vaccinated. There has never been such a requirement placed on air travel, hotels, theme parks, etc.
Cruise ships have been held to the most rigorous standards- especially when it comes to testing. Depending on the line, all passengers are required to be tested between 48 and 72 hours prior to boarding, with many lines requiring unvaccinated passengers to test at the terminal prior to boarding.
This past week, Viking became the first cruise line to no longer require pre-voyage coronavirus testing in destinations where it's not mandated.
It's time more cruise lines follow Viking's lead.
If the CDC determined that testing was "no longer needed" for those returning via air, then the testing shouldn't be needed for a crowd of largely vaccinated travelers on cruise ships. The CDC requires cruise lines to provide daily numbers of COVID cases and that number has remained well below the positivity rate of what is being recorded on land. For instance, cruise ships are placed into an "orange" status when their case counts reach just 0.3% of passengers and/or crew. That would mean 8 cases on a ship of 2,500. This threshold launches a CDC investigation.
If that were the standard everywhere, then every state & county in the country would exceed that level.
Earlier in the pandemic before the advent of vaccines and treatments, requiring testing to manage transmission and keep from overwhelming shoreside and onboard medical capabilities were absolutely the correct call. But with those tools, it's time to allow cruises to return to more normal operations.
The first step for that is to remove pre-cruise testing.
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