Yesterday, the Passenger Vessel Association (PVA) sent another letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) demanding immediate action to relax the federal mask mandate for U.S. passenger vessels. The PVA is urging the federal government to change its requirements for the wearing of masks by vessel crewmembers and passengers.

The June 7 letter comes after numerous communications and meetings between PVA and the CDC concerning the relaxation of federal mask wearing rules. The CDC has said that it intends to relax its rules, but so far has not issued any changes. PVA has pleaded with the CDC to act quickly and align mask wearing rules for passenger vessels with shoreside venues. 

n her June 7 letter to the CDC, PVA President Colleen Stephens, writing for a third time since May 21, urged the CDC to immediately alter its mandatory mask policy for passengers and crew on domestic U.S. passenger vessels.

During two conference calls on May 19 and 26, senior CDC representatives "have suggested that changes to the mask policy are imminent, especially with regard to passengers on outside decks of vessels. However ... no changes have been announced, to the great frustration of U.S. passenger vessel operators and their customers," Stephens wrote.

There is no scientific or public health justification for continuing a mandatory mask wearing policy for passengers on outside decks of vessels, Stephens said.

During the May 26 call, a CDC representative suggested that the agency has no choice but to have the same mask policy for all transportation modes. "There is no legal or factual basis for treating all conveyances the same," Stephens wrote.

Unlike commercial airliners, intercity buses, and trains, passenger vessels can offer passengers the option of riding outside on decks in the open air. "If the CDC is not prepared to alter its mask policy for those conveyances in which passengers are confined within interior spaces, it can nevertheless easily justify a new policy of no mandatory mask wearing for passengers" on vessels with open air decks," Stephens said in her letter.

PVA members report that persuading passengers, particularly those on outside decks, to comply with the CDC and Coast Guard mask mandates has become "virtually impossible." PVA's position is that crews should no longer have to endure the personal abuse directed at them by passengers who refuse to wear masks.

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