Cruises Just Restarted And Passengers Are Already Testing Positive For Covid-19 Again
Two passengers have tested positive for Covid-19 on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, just weeks after cruises were permitted to restart by the CDC. The Celebrity Millennium was the first ship to set sail from North America with paying passengers since the U.S. cruise industry was shut down last year.
The requirements for travelling on the ship adhered to CDC guidelines aimed at helping re-start cruises. All of the crew and passengers over the age of 16 presented proof of vaccination as well as a negative Covid-19 test within 72 hours prior to boarding the ship.
The two affected guests on the ship are from the same room. Both are currently asymptomatic and isolated in their room while being monitored by ship’s medical staff. The cases were found after routine end-of-cruise testing, according to a press release from Royal Caribbean about the incident.
The news comes just a day after two passengers on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean tested positive and were removed from the ship. A negative Covid-19 test within 96 hours of boarding was required for the MSC Seaside cruise, but no vaccination.
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So, what could have happened on the Celebrity Millennium considering all on board provided proof of vaccination?
Firstly, all vaccines currently approved for use in the U.S. are very effective against preventing severe disease and death and also provide some protection against symptomatic disease and also reduce the risk of somebody transmitting the virus to others. But no vaccine is 100% effective at any of these metrics and it is inevitable that some people will test positive even after being fully vaccinated.
It is also entirely possible for someone to take a Covid-19 test within 72 hours of sailing, contract Covid-19 after they take the test and later test positive.
If all guests are truly fully vaccinated, which it’s prudent to realize may not be the case – the outbreak should be fairly easy to control and it is likely that nobody else will get seriously sick or die from Covid-19 on the Celebrity Millennium. Nobody else may even test positive, you could even consider it a success story of sorts.
However, that people have tested positive on two ships within the last day, should raise particular concern for cruises setting sail where there are large numbers of unvaccinated passengers. For example in Florida, one of the busiest cruise ports in the U.S., businesses are not permitted to ask for the vaccination status of individuals and can be fined if they do.
On Friday, the Miami Herald reported that after originally planning to ask for proof of vaccination, Royal Caribbean reversed course saying that vaccinations would merely be recommended on U.S.-departing cruises. The news was met with dismay from many travelers, claiming they would not be joining any cruise with unvaccinated guests on board.
“Guests are strongly recommended to set sail fully vaccinated, if they are eligible,” the company said in a statement reported by the Miami Herald. “Those who are unvaccinated or unable to verify vaccination will be required to undergo testing and follow other protocols, which will be announced at a later date,” the statement added.
In February and March of last year, I wrote extensively about outbreaks of Covid-19 on cruise ships. Then for most people, SARS-CoV2 was a distant concern, something which had yet to affect many of us outside of China. It was ripping through ships such as the Diamond Princess, causing deaths and illness while governments scrambled to figure out how to handle the outbreaks and repatriate their citizens.
Things have changed.
Safe and effective vaccines have been created and are available to people in countries lucky enough to either make them, or have enough money to purchase them in large quantities. But the virus which causes Covid-19 has also changed. In North America, the dominant Alpha (formally known as U.K.) variant and growing Delta (formerly known as the India) variant are both more transmissible than the ‘original’ virus and more likely to hospitalize and cause death.
Added to this, rates of vaccination at some of the popular destinations for cruise ships are very low compared to those in the U.S., so unvaccinated travelers likely pose not only a risk to themselves, but also people in the communities they are visiting.
Unvaccinated people who choose to go on cruises are like sitting ducks for these more aggressive, more harmful variants and as the early outbreaks showed, the virus is very much at home on cruise ships.