At least eight Royal Caribbean crew test positive for COVID-19 despite vaccinations

At least eight Royal Caribbean crew test positive for COVID-19 despite vaccinations
Image via Shutterstock.

At the start of the pandemic, multiple cruise lines made headlines for having passengers or crew members on board who tested positive for COVID-19. As a result, the cruise lines were forced to either dock at the nearest port or delay their trips. The struggle continues, with a Royal Caribbean International cruise delaying its inaugural sailing of the Odyssey of the Seas cruise ship after eight crew members tested positive for COVID-19. But the twist is that all eight members who tested positive were vaccinated, officials said Tuesday, according to NBC News.

In a statement posted to Facebook Tuesday, President and CEO of Royal Caribbean Michael Bayley said the situation was "two steps forward and one step back." All crew members were to be fully vaccinated by June 18; however, before the date of departure could arrive, at least eight tested positive, two with mild symptoms and six who were asymptomatic. Bayley noted that the "positive cases were identified after the vaccination was given and before they were fully effective."

All eight have quarantined and are being closely monitored by a medical team, but the company has delayed the ship's first trip from July 3 to July 31 in order for all crew members to observe quarantine and prevent further infection."While disappointing, this is the right decision for the health and well-being of our crew and guests," Bayley said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) it is rare for people to test positive for COVID-19 after being fully vaccinated, but not impossible. Such cases are known as breakthrough infections. Out of more than 130 million people who have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus in the U.S., only 10,262 have reported breakthrough infections, the CDC said in May, NBC News reported.

While many Republican governors are against companies requiring passengers to prove they have been vaccinated, the CDC and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission support their ability to do so. While Royal Caribbean has set up guidelines for its cruises, including it being mandatory for all guests over 16 to be fully vaccinated, the rules do not apply in Florida. Florida's exception follows Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' executive order that bans companies from asking people for proof of vaccination.

According to the company, starting August 1 the age requirement for vaccinated guests will be 12 years or older. Younger passengers who are not yet eligible for the vaccine will be allowed to sail with a negative test as long as they follow safety regulations.

"Guests eligible but not fully vaccinated or able to show proof of vaccination will be subject to testing and additional health protocols at their own expense," the company said. "Children not eligible for vaccines will be subject to complimentary testing and health protocols."

This isn't the first time Royal Caribbean has faced a similar situation. Last week the company's first cruise ship from Miami had two passengers test positive for coronavirus despite the entire ship being filled with "fully vaccinated" crew and adult guests, CBS News reported. Guests were required to show proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours before sailing from St. Maarten.

Cruise ships have been considered superspreaders for the novel coronavirus since the start of the pandemic and were not given the go-ahead to resume operations until May, according to NBC News. In order to avoid being a superspreader ship, CDC guidelines require that 95% of ship passengers should be fully vaccinated prior to sailing. Additionally, everyone on the ship, whether or not they are vaccinated, is advised to wear a mask.

The incident goes to show that just because you're vaccinated doesn't mean you cannot be infected by the novel coronavirus. Despite things opening up and safety regulations easing down, we are still in a global pandemic.


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