CDC Renews Transportation Mask Mandate, Mariner Exemptions Affirmed

The American Waterways Operators reported in its August 27 newsletter that in a joint conference call with the Coast Guard, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention representatives told maritime industry stakeholders that the agency will be extending the mask order for transportation conveyances and hubs.

The order has no expiration date, and the CDC said it will remain in place until the COVID-19 situation “improves.” The agency will weigh factors including the transmissibility and infectiousness of emerging variants, the nationwide vaccination rate and epidemiology among vaccinated people in considering future amendments to the order.

According to the CDC, “The term commercial maritime conveyance means all forms of commercial maritime vessels, including but not limited to cargo ships, fishing vessels, research vessels, self-propelled barges, and all forms of passenger carrying vessels including ferries, river cruise ships, and those chartered for fishing trips, unless otherwise exempted.”

However, the current exemption on mask-wearing in outdoor areas of vessels, ports and terminals remains in effect. In an email update, AWO explained that the CDC has updated its FAQs about its mask order to affirm the exemption for live-aboard mariners on non-passenger commercial vessel from the requirement of wearing a mask.

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The CDC states, “If the vessel is operated by a team who all live on the vessel and are the only people on the vessel, mariners on commercial vessels are not required to wear masks and should be guided by CDC’s Interim Guidance for Ships on Managing Suspected or Confirmed Cases of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).”

The AWO applauded the FAQ updating, saying “This change gives operators of live-aboard towing vessels the ability to establish policies and guidelines for mask-wearing that are risk-based and aligned with the company’s other COVID-19 mitigation measures, including, if you so choose, distinguishing between vaccinated and unvaccinated crewmembers.”

The Coast Guard, which is in charge of enforcing the CDC’s guidelines for commercial vessels, is in the process of revising MSIB 02-21, Change 2 to reflect the extension.