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News about coronavirus in Florida and around the world is constantly emerging. It's hard to stay on top of it all but Health News Florida can help. Our responsibility is to keep you informed, and to help discern what’s important for your family as you make what could be life-saving decisions.

The CDC's ominous warning for the Florida cruise ship industry

 The Norwegian Dawn approaches Key West harbor on Dec. 9, 2021
Nancy Klingener
The Norwegian Dawn approaches Key West harbor on Dec. 9, 2021

The chances of getting COVID on a cruise are "very high," even for those who are vaccinated and boosted, the nation's public health agency said.

In a potentially ominous message for Florida’s cruise industry, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday that people should avoid cruise travel “regardless of vaccination status” because of the spread of COVID-19.

The health agency said outbreaks have been reported aboard cruise ships as the highly contagious omicron variant of the coronavirus has helped drive up infections.

“Even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants,” the agency said on its website. “The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads easily between people in close quarters on board ships, and the chance of getting COVID-19 on cruise ships is very high, even if you are fully vaccinated and have received a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose.”

The agency said people who travel on cruise ships should make sure they are fully vaccinated and get tested for COVID-19 before and after their trips.

The CDC notice came after months of efforts by Gov. Ron DeSantis and Attorney General Ashley Moody to fight federal COVID-19 restrictions on the cruise industry and to prevent requirements that cruise passengers show proof of vaccination.

DeSantis has said federal guidelines for cruise lines effectively "mothballed" the industry when it was shut down during the first year of the pandemic. .In addition to the negative effects on the state economy, DeSantis noted the shutdown "shattered" the livelihoods of industry workers.

A Tampa federal judge sided with the state in June and issued a preliminary injunction against CDC restrictions on the industry, while a Miami federal judge in August backed Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings in a challenge to Florida’s ban on so-called “vaccine passports.” The vaccine passport law blocked businesses from requiring customers to show proof of vaccination, though the federal judge’s ruling only applied to Norwegian.

Appeals in both of those cases are pending at the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The CDC notice Thursday came as Florida and other states have seen massive surges in COVID-19 cases. Meanwhile, Orange County cautioned Thursday that case numbers could go higher after social gatherings around Christmas.

Orange County, which takes part in a program that evaluates wastewater for traces of COVID-19, said it received data Wednesday that showed “historic increases of COVID-19 remnants in the county’s wastewater service areas.”

“This data helps predict infections four to 10 days before we see changes in our community’s caseload, allowing county leadership and medical professionals to adjust public health resources accordingly,” Ed Torres, director of Orange County Utilities, said in a prepared statement. “Because both symptomatic and asymptomatic carriers of the virus shed remnants in their waste, this data provides an accurate picture of how the virus is spreading in our community regardless of the number of people tested.”

Florida hospitals also have seen steady increases this week in numbers of inpatients with COVID-19, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. However, they remain far below the totals of this past simmer, when the delta variant spread through the state.

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Jim Saunders is the Executive Editor of The News Service Of Florida.