By Gabe Hiatt
Mexico ports will receive cruises with coronavirus outbreaks onboard, the country's health department announced Tuesday, ensuring no more of the massive ships will be turned away in search of another landing.
Passengers and crew who show symptoms or test positive will quarantine or be admitted to hospitals, the statement says.
People who show no symptoms are allowed to leave the ships and interact with locals on land with encouragement to wear a mask and frequently clean their hands.
According to the statement from the Secretariat of Health, a ship that was rebuffed from two previous ports was allowed to dock at the port of Guaymas in the northern state of Sonora.
Reuters identified that ship as Holland America's MS Zuiderdam, reporting that the vessel embarking from San Diego with 2,000 people held 28 crew members and two passengers who tested positive, according to Sonora health minister José Luis Alomía Zegarra.
In a story about rising outbreaks and disruptions on cruise ships over Christmas holidays, The Washington Post reported the Holland America-owned Koningsdam was unable to dock in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, after 21 crew members tested positive.
The report also identified the Carnival Freedom, heading for Bonaire, and Royal Caribbean's Odyssey of the Seas as ships that were unable to dock because of the coronavirus.
Through Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported there were 86 cruise ships carrying passengers in U.S. waters that had coronavirus cases onboard, the most since the industry's return to the seas following a 15-month shutdown.
That comeback was only possible after the CDC issued a conditional sailing order laying out public health restrictions and requirements for cruise ships.
Cruise lines have adopted vaccine requirements, testing before boarding and masking indoors, ramping up their protocols with the emergence of new variants.
As the Omicron variant has risen to dominance, breakthrough cases for vaccinated people have become more common.
So far, omicron infections appear to less severe for vaccinated populations - akin to the common cold - and the severe cases and deaths stemming from cruises during the first wave of the pandemic have not reappeared.
The CDC has not altered its plan to let mandatory restrictions for cruising lapse on Jan. 15.
The CDC released new guidance this week reducing the suggested isolation time for people without symptoms from 10 days to five.
The Post reported that the potential for disruption to essential services - already acutely felt for airlines - influenced senior US health officials.
Union heads for flight attendants and nurses are already airing concerns that the move prioritizes business over public health.