The case for 100% vaccinated cruises

Arnie WeissmannDr. Stephen Ostroff stated this week that he feels at home indoors unmasked and circulating with 2,608 (mostly) unmasked individuals.This isn't what you would expect from a 20-year-old veteran of the CDC, who specialized on emerging infectious diseases and served as chief scientist at Food and Drug Administration (stepping up as acting director twice).There is one circumstance that makes the doctor feel at ease indoors: Each person is certified to have had a negative Covid test and is certified to have been vaccinated."Inside" refers to the Encore, which was the first Norwegian Cruise Line ship from the United States since the outbreak.Ostroff, a self-described "vaccination fanatic," was a member of the Healthy Sail Panel of experts created by Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Royal Caribbean Group. They made 74 recommendations to reduce onboard health risks.This was before widespread availability of Covid-19 vaccine. Ostroff is now a member of the NCLH's SailSAFE Global Health and Wellness Council. This post-vaccine panel continues to provide guidance on health and sanitation to NCLH to reduce the risk of cruising in a pandemic.Two options are available to cruise ships departing from U.S. ports. Either have at least 95% of their guests and crew vaccinated and no restrictions, or go with lower rates and add protocols that will significantly impact your cruise experience.Ostroff explained to media aboard the Encore that there is a difference between 100% & 95%. Cruise ships should be cruising at 100 percent, straight up. This is the safest you can be, other than locking yourself in your house.Harry Sommer, NCL president, elaborated on the Encore as an illustration. A ship of this size could contain 200 passengers unvaccinated and 100 crew members. That's not what we want."Ostroff listed three principles he believes are essential to sailing safely, even with fully vaccinated crew and guests. If the virus does manage to get aboard, minimize the chances of it spreading. Third, reduce the chance that someone will become seriously ill if they get the virus.For No. 1. He said that testing is especially important because vaccines are only 95% effective.Contact tracing address No. 2: Advanced air filtration, disinfectants, and advanced air filtration 2. (Using facial recognition software to scan ship's ubiquitous video feed speeds up contact tracing.Free medical attention for respiratory problems, an ICU onboard, isolation cabins, and a prorated refunds policy No. 3.Ostroff stated that "We're pretty close to creating an bubble." You can't do these three things in the same way if the unvaccinated are around. The delta variant is laser-focused on the unvaccinated. Even if they are few, the delta variant will still find them.Children under 12 were not allowed to sail, which was surprising considering the ship has so many attractions for children. Ostroff stated that he expects children six years old and older to begin being vaccinated in the "late fall".The Encore is my second cruise ship with 100% of the crew and guests vaccinated. (The first was Silversea's Silver Moon sailing the Greek islands). Both sailings I felt like I was seeing an ideal future where Covid would be eliminated.In reality, however, it is more of a glimpse into the past. Scott Gottlieb, a former FDA commissioner, said that Covid was likely to be around for the long-term, perhaps as a seasonal threat.During the cruise, NCL received a preliminary injunction from Florida allowing it to request proof of vaccination for cruises leaving Florida ports. I felt the freedom and security that comes with a fully vaccinated cruise. It seems strange that Florida Governor. Ron DeSantis is going on the offensive to prohibit this option, even though there's nothing in NCLH winning that would stop another cruise line sailing with fewer vaccinated passengers. (NCLH is one of four major cruise companies that insists it will sail only with 100% vaccinated guests.Ostroff stated that he would wear his mask on the ship in order to show how safe it is to travel 100% vaccinated. He said this as a sign of safety.He stated that being on a 100% vaccined ship "shows you the possibilities."