Just a month ago the CDC made an important move for the cruise industry when it lowered its risk level from Level 4 (the highest level possible) to Level 3 due to the decreased risk of Covid aboard cruise ships.
Now the agency has made another step, dropping the risk down to Level 2. This new level indicates a “Moderate” level of Covid according to the CDC’s scale.
With the adjustment, the health agency still recommends that you have the vaccine and are “up to date” on the series before sailing. This means having the shot and booster if eligible.
But the CDC’s Level 3 warning (indicating a “High” level of Covid) previously warned that you should avoid cruise travel if you were not up to date with shots or if you have an “increased risk of severe illness” from the virus.
Now at Level 2, the change means the CDC recommends you still be fully vaccinated and boosted, but you should only avoid cruise travel if you are not up to date and you are at an increased risk.
The new warning comes as the CDC follows dropping case counts for ships. Specifically, the agency tracks new case counts with the ships under its voluntary tracking program. For Level 3 status, it indicates there are between 1,000-2,000 total crew case counts during the past 14 days. A move into the Level 2 category means 500-999 cases during that time:
In other words, the agency has evidently seen a significant drop in cases since last month. According to the CDC’s website, “The THN (Travel Health Notice) for cruise ship travel represents the status of the COVID-19 pandemic at this time. For travelers booking cruise travel now, be aware that the level may change as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves and may be different by the time of your cruise.”
And despite cruise lines mostly earning mask requirements, the CDC still recommends you “wear a well-fitting mask to keep you nose and mouth covered when indoors.”
This change in warning level comes as data also shows a sharp rise in ‘green’ ships. The vast majority of cruise ships sailing in U.S. waters have opted into the agency’s voluntary tracking program. Each day, the cruise ships under the program submit information on cases to the CDC. Then, a color (green, yellow, orange, red) is assigned based on this daily data.
During the Omicron spike, the number of ‘green’ ships fell sharply — into the single digits with more than 100 ships reporting data (as little as one case turns a ship from ‘green’.) However, since mid-January there has been a dramatic increase in the number of ships showing no cases at all:
No one can know for sure if this is just a lull in cases or if we are finally past the worst of the virus. For now at least, the positive health news keeps coming and cruise lines are likely happy to be getting back to normal.