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Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Pearl returns to the Port of Miami in Florida, on Jan. 5 after several crew members tested positive for COVID. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's COVID-19 guidance will be optional for many cruise ships starting Saturday.

Why it matters: The CDC's framework for cruise lines was extended to Jan. 15 in October after cases spiked. Its expiration comes two weeks after the CDC issued a warning to avoid cruise travel for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

State of play: The vast majority of cruise ships currently have reported enough coronavirus cases to meet the threshold for a CDC investigation.

  • After Saturday, the CDC will transition to a voluntary risk mitigation program for cruise lines operating in U.S. waters.
  • "This transition will continue strong measures to detect, mitigate, and control the spread of COVID, and it will align with other travel orders including the global contract tracing and global testing orders," the CDC said in an October statement announcing the voluntary program.
  • The CDC has notified industry members about the program and expects cruise lines to decide whether to participate or not in the coming week, USA Today reports.

What they're saying: The transition "recognizes the cruise industry’s unwavering commitment to providing some of the highest levels of COVID-19 mitigation found in any industry," the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) said in a statement on Thursday.

  • "Cruise is the only segment of travel and tourism that requires, prior to embarkation for both passengers and crew, exceedingly high levels of vaccination ... and 100% testing of every individual."
  • The industry "will continue to be guided by the science and the principle of putting people first," CLIA added.

Go deeper

Jan 15, 2022 - Health

Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron

Three COVID-19 testing companies place testing locations outside Grand Central Terminal on Jan. 14 in New York City. Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Experts are warning that subsequent COVID-19 variants are likely to come after Omicron, AP reports.

Why it matters: The warnings come as there's no guarantee that subsequent variants "will cause milder illness or that existing vaccines will work against them," underscoring the need for widespread vaccination, AP writes.

Supreme Court agrees to hear challenge to affirmative action at Harvard, UNC

Photo: Al Drago/Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a pair of cases challenging the consideration of race in the college admissions processes.

Why it matters: The conservative high court's ruling could determine the future of affirmative action in higher education.

Europe's energy reliance on Russia is a crucial shield for Putin

Photo: Pavel Bednyakov/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images

Cracks in the NATO alliance regarding sanctions for Russia should President Vladimir Putin order troops into Ukraine are in large part based on energy supply concerns.

Why it matters: Russia holds tremendous leverage over some European countries because it provides roughly 40% of Europe's natural gas supply. In Germany, this figure is greater than 50%.