Wait and see before going on post-COVID cruise, says Tampa Bay couple that survived coronavirus outbreak

Coronavirus

TAMPA (WFLA) – Weeks after the state of Florida filed a lawsuit over the no-sail order, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says the cruise industry could resume operations in the U.S. this summer.

8 On Your Side spoke with Gay Courter, a Tampa Bay author who experienced first-hand what can happen when the coronavirus gets onboard a cruise ship.

“This is a very scary illness and we are still not out of the woods,” said Courter, noting the state reported more than 5,000 new infections Thursday.

The last cruise Gay and her husband Phil Courter went on was a nightmare that became the subject of her book, Quarantine! How I Survived the Diamond Princess Coronavirus Crisis.

“We feel very lucky to have survived both the Diamond Princess, the quarantine and this whole year,” she said.

8 On Your Side followed the Courter’s journey back home to Crystal River after the Feb. 2020 coronavirus outbreak on their cruise ship in Japan. More than 700 people got sick. 14 passengers passed away.

The industry Courter loves, she said, had no choice but to shut down.

“There was no other choice because if more people started dying on cruise ships,” Courter said, “the industry would be gone forever.”

But now there is hope cruise ships will set sail again from U.S. ports with the CDC setting a mid-July target date.

“CDC remains committed to the resumption of passenger operations in the United States following the requirements in the CSO by mid-summer, which aligns with the goals announced by many major cruise lines and travelers,” said CDC Public Affairs Specialist Jade Fulce in a statement sent to 8 On Your Side.

The CDC wants 98 percent of crew members and 95 percent of passengers to be fully vaccinated.

“The federal government can require that and that would by the way trump state law on many circumstances,” said Dr. Jay Wolfson from USF Health Morsani College of Medicine. “The question is how do you prove it.”

With COVID-19 testing upon embarkation and enhanced sanitation protocols, Dr. Wolfson said passengers will need to be extra careful when they get off their ship. While rare, the CDC has reported more than 7,000 breakthrough cases for fully vaccinated people. 

“If you’re in Puerto Rico or someplace else in Nassau,” he said, “If you’re approaching a crowd same as you do here you wear your masks, social distance.”

Dr. Wolfson said with the vaccination progress he believes the time is right to resume cruise voyages.

“It’s just as summer is coming on board,” he said. “Lots of Floridians and lots of folks from the United States are eager to get back into the cruise experience.”

But not so fast for both Courter and her husband, even though by now both have received both shots in their arms.

“No there’s no chance that we’ll cruise until we see how these trial cruises go,” Courter told 8 On Your Side when asked if they’d get on a ship this summer.

If the cruises set sail with no COVID-19 setbacks, Courter said she and her husband hope to go on one in Australia next November.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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