Cruise news blues: Four vaccinated passengers, two unvaccinated children test positive for COVID-19

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

Cruise lines are slowly easing into getting back out on the seas again with customers onboard. Most of the cruise lines have navigated through the testing protocols from the CDC. Loyal cruisers are celebrating the ability to get back to it. As might have been expected from everyone, though, some vacationers are testing positive for COVID-19.

It’s been a political tug of war between the CDC and some parties involved, like the state of Florida, during the process of bringing cruise ships back to work. Ships are cruising with less than normal numbers of passengers. In the last legal battle between the CDC and Florida, Florida came out on top. A federal appeals judge ruled last Friday that ships leaving from or arriving in Florida do not have to abide by the CDC’s restrictions imposed on cruise lines as they make it difficult for the industry to reopen. The industry has been shut down for 16 months.

Under the federal rules, ships were allowed to board passengers if cruise lines met such requirements as setting up Covid testing labs, running test voyages, maintaining social distancing, and establishing onshore housing for quarantining passengers.

The federal government said the rules were necessary with the United States in the midst of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic that included several deadly outbreaks clustered on cruise ships. “These experiences demonstrated that cruise ships are uniquely suited to spread COVID-19, likely due to their close quarters for passengers and crew for prolonged periods.”

The state of Florida argued that CDC’s restrictions have cost the state tens of millions of dollars in tax revenues and port revenues in addition to paying out unemployment benefits due to the jobs lost. Friday’s ruling was an unexpected reversal by the federal appeals court – and a win for Florida.

In June, a federal court agreed with the state and blocked the CDC restrictions. U.S. District Court Judge Steven Merryday of Tampa, Florida, said the effort to impose the rules was “breathtaking, unprecedented, and acutely and singularly authoritarian.” He said he wondered whether the CDC would have argued that it could ban intercourse to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, based in Atlanta, initially put Merryday’s order on hold. But late Friday, without explanation, it reversed itself and said the state “failed to demonstrate an entitlement to a stay pending appeal.”

Cruise lines are adjusting according to the new rules. Some are requiring 100% vaccinated guests and staff. Others are requiring that 90-95 percent of guests are vaccinated. Adjustments are made according to vaccination status. Frankly, this is the new normal, post-pandemic. We are going to have to learn to live with COVID-19 and its variants and get on with our lives. If cruising is your thing, feel free. For many of us who are not cruising enthusiasts, the big ships crammed with thousands of people are big Petri dishes just waiting to make us sick, under the best of circumstances. Being out in the middle of an ocean with three thousand of my closest friends is not my idea of a good time, but your mileage may vary.

There’s a story out today from Royal Caribbean that four vaccinated adults and two unvaccinated children have tested positive for COVID-19. No one should be surprised.

“Four of the guests, who are not traveling together, are vaccinated, three are asymptomatic and one has mild symptoms,” Royal Caribbean said in a statement provided by Sierra-Caro. “Two of the guests, who are in the same traveling party, are unvaccinated minors and asymptomatic.”

To sail on Adventure of the Seas, passengers 16 and older are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and to receive a negative test before boarding. Children under 16 must test negative before boarding, too. All crew on board are fully vaccinated.

The company’s protocols were followed and the infected passengers were either not experiencing any symptoms or only suffering from mild symptoms. The cruise line instructed them to quarantine for 14 days at home and speak with their doctors. Experienced cruisers are comfortable in the fact that the cruise lines are efficiently following safety protocols.

The passengers who tested positive and their close contacts were quarantined immediately upon receiving test results. The six passengers and their traveling parties will be flown home from Freeport, where the ship is docked, on Friday.

Sierra-Caro noted the passengers will be medically evacuated and taken door to door from ship to home via private transport to a private plane and then home. The transportation will come at no cost to the passengers.

The rest of the passengers will not have to quarantine. There are 1,182 passengers and 900 crew members on board. All close contacts tested negative with PCR test results on Friday morning.

Vaccines will not prevent everyone from being infected with COVID-19. We hear of breakthrough cases and this will continue. Vaccines will prevent deaths and bad cases of COVID-19. The people being hospitalized and dying now from COVID-19 are those who have chosen not to get vaccinated.