Vice President Mike Pence on Friday joined cruise industry executives and the Centers for Disease Control director on a call to discuss COVID-19 and how the industry plans to approach the restart of operations, according to the White House.
Their discussion on resumption included the 74 recommendations from the Healthy Sail Panel published in September, which were adopted for sailing in U.S. waters by Cruise Lines International Association, the industry’s leading organization, on Friday ahead of the meeting.
The recommendations include protocol to prevent the introduction and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on cruise ships, including testing, face coverings and temperature checks.
During the meeting, Pence also gave an overview of the “no-sail” order that was extended last week through Oct. 31, according to a readout published by the White House.
The CDC had requested that the order be extended to Feb. 15, 2021, but compromised with the White House Task Force to extend until Oct. 31, four days before the Nov. 3 election, a person familiar with the situation but not authorized to speak publicly told USA TODAY on Sept. 29.
“We appreciated the opportunity to engage with the Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to discuss resumption of cruising in the US,” Bari Golin-Blaugrund, vice president of strategic communications for Cruise Lines International Association, told USA TODAY in a statement.
CLIA’s adoption of all 74 recommendations follows its September decision to implement a set of new protocols it called “core elements,” which were informed by successful cruising in Europe and recommendations from Royal Caribbean and Norwegian’s Healthy Sail Panel, Carnival Corp.’s independent experts and from MSC’s Blue Ribbon group.
Earlier in the week, cruise lines around the world also committed to testing every passenger and crew member for COVID-19 before boarding ships that can hold more than 250 people.
On the call, Alex Azar, the secretary of Health and Human Services, and CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield “touched on their commitment to the collaborative effort that produced the Healthy Sail Panel’s 74 recommendations” and the government’s support for the industry’s safe resumption of sailing.
But they “cautioned that the cruise industry would have to backstop their venture to resume operations,” according to the readout.
“We look forward to further discussions to support a gradual return to operations this year,” Golin-Blaugrund continued.
The industry’s proposal to resume sailing will be presented to the White House Task Force, which will then provide a recommendation to President Donald Trump for next steps with the CDC’s no sail order, the readout said.
USA TODAY has reached out to the CDC and the White House for more information.
Pence, Azar and Redfield were joined by former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, who co-chaired the Healthy Sail Panel; Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald; Norwegian CEO Frank Del Rio; Royal Caribbean CEO Richard Fain; Pierfrancesco Vago, executive chairman of MSC Cruises; and Thomas Mazoum, president of Disney Signature Experience.
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