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Scientists say cruises could set sail by the end of June, but fall could be a safer option

Low COVID-19 transmission rates and high vaccination rates will help the industry start back up again.

TAMPA, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis wants cruise restrictions lifted by the end of June, calling the country's no sail order is "baseless."

"The CDC hasn't updated any of its findings with data to justify the lockdown of this industry," DeSantis said Friday at a roundtable event at Port Canaveral.

He says Florida has already lost too many jobs connected to the cruise industry and millions of dollars in revenue.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention's no-sail order is set to expire on Nov. 1, 2021, right now. It was put in place last March after several coronavirus outbreaks on ships. Some Floridians were left stranded.

"More than 700 got sick on the ship. 15 died sadly. They were our shipmates," Gay Courter said.

She and her husband, Phil, were stuck on the Diamond Princess cruise ship 

"We had talks about, are we going to die from this? Is this it? Is this what's going to take us away," Courter said.

A year later they're both getting vaccinated and made it through without catching COVID-19. They aren't in any rush to set sail again.

"We're going to have to wait till it's proven safe," Courter said.

While the governor pushes for a quicker lift on restrictions, scientists want to make sure health measures are in place for safety.

"I don't understand the rush. I think that you could actually just assess the situation as it goes," USF Public Health's Dr. Jill Roberts said.

Epidemiologists say cruises will hit the water again, but the timing will have to be based on vaccinations and the spread of the virus.

"If we have really low transmission rates, and we have high vaccination rates, you know, I think at that point, you can consider opening up things like cruises. They are more risky because you are pretty much confined on the ship," USF Public Health Dr. Michael Teng said.

Safety measures, like masks, social distancing, and a new ventilation system will have to be in place to help stop the spread.

"There's an awful lot of open air space, that open air space is a lot safer than closed spaces are. You can repurpose some of it. So if you have places like deck space that is being used for games that no one's playing, for example, you could repurpose that as an outdoor buffet. It just simply makes those kinds of experiences much, much less dangerous," Roberts said.

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