Reports say that twenty-six crew members and one passenger have tested positive for COVID-19 aboard Carnival Vista, sailing from Galveston. This comes from a message released by the Belize Tourism Board and also confirmed by USAToday.
According to the news release, Vista stopped in Belize yesterday. “As per the normal protocol, upon submission of the Maritime Declaration by the ship in anticipation of its call to Belize the ship reported that it had on board 27 positive cases, 26 of which were crew members and 1 passenger,” the notice said.
All those testing positive are reportedly vaccinated, and most are said to be asymptomatic or have mild symptoms.
The release also said there were 2,895 passengers and 1,441 crew on the ship. Vista has a normal capacity of nearly 4,000, but has sailed with lower numbers since it returned to sailing from Galveston on July 3. Of those on the ship, 99.98% of the crew are vaccinated and 96.5% of passengers are reported to have the shot.
While vaccines are highly beneficial in reducing the severity of COVID, they do not offer complete protection against infection. The Delta variant in particular seems to be able to more easily break through vaccines compared to other variants of the virus.
After the cases were found, Carnival reportedly enacted a number of protocols. Contact tracing involving nearly 1,000 tests has been performed, N95 masks are in use by the crew, and all guests will require a negative rapid test for the next departure, according to the Belize Tourism Board:
“After a thorough review of the situation, and after determining that the risk is low, including the fact that CDC is aware of the situation, it was concluded that the situation is contained, and safety protocols are proving effective,” the board said.
Passengers were still allowed to debark in Belize. They had to provide proof of a negative test if they had it. If not, then they were said to undergo random testing by the Belizean authorities.
“According to our local protocols, passengers will not be allowed to disembark if the total number of positive cases exceeds 2% of the ship’s passengers,” the release stated.
Today Carnival Vista docked in Cozumel. It is scheduled to depart this afternoon, returning to Galveston on Saturday morning. Carnival confirmed to Cruzely that the next sailing is “still planned as normal.”
Notably, the same ship had a “small number” of cases reported last week. At the time, however, no specific figure was given regarding how many cases were found.
Increasing Protocols Against the Virus
Carnival currently requires 95%+ of passengers to be vaccinated on its ships. It does allow a small number of exemptions for those ineligible for the vaccine to sail. Crew members are also vaccinated.
In addition, the cruise line enacted a new indoor masking requirement for passengers that went into effect on August 7. And beginning August 14, all passengers — including vaccinated — must show proof of a negative COVID test taken within three days of the cruise departure before they are allowed to board.
Prior to these changes (which were announced before these cases were found), masks weren’t required on cruises where 95%+ of passengers had the shot, and vaccinated passengers did not usually require testing before boarding.
Crew members aboard Vista are currently required to be tested every week, according to CDC guidelines.
The rise of the highly transmissible Delta variant has led to a sharp rise in COVID cases on land, despite a large segment of the population being vaccinated. This includes a large number of cases in Florida, home to the most cruise departures, and Texas, where Vista homeports.
Vista is currently is one of 14 cruise ships tracked by the CDC with a “yellow” status. As of today, 25 of the 67 ships tracked by the CDC (37%) have “orange” or “yellow” status, indicating possible cases in the past week.