In brief

Cruising could resume from US ports in mid-July, CDC says

Cruising could resume from U.S. ports by mid-July aboard ships with at least 98% of crew members and 95% of passengers fully vaccinated, the nation’s top health protection agency announced.

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A key official of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention delivered a set of revised guidelines Wednesday that could clear the way for cruising more than a year after the COVID-19 pandemic shut it down.

The guidelines follow a high-profile campaign by top industry officials, and a lawsuit by Florida’s attorney general, demanding that the CDC allow the industry — crucial to Florida’s tourism economy — to resume operations from Florida’s six cruise ports this summer.

Still unknown is how Gov. Ron DeSantis will respond to the CDC’s statement that cruise lines can speed up their resumptions if nearly all crew and passengers are vaccinated.

Earlier this month, DeSantis said cruise lines would not be exempted from his executive order barring businesses from requiring “vaccine passports.” The governor’s office has not yet responded to a request for comment about the CDC letter.

The revised guidelines follow discussions with cruise industry representatives aimed at identifying “the fastest path back to sailing without compromising safety,” according to a CDC statement.

They include:

— Simulated voyages required by previous CDC guidance won’t be necessary if a ship attests that 98% of crew members and 95% of passengers are fully vaccinated.

— If a cruise line applies to conduct simulated voyages, the CDC will review and respond to the application within five days instead of 60 days.

— Vaccinated crew members and passengers will be allowed to take simplified viral tests.

— Cruise ship operators will be allowed to enter into multiport agreements instead of separate agreements with each port. These agreements are meant to ensure that medical and housing facilities near ports are available in case of a large-scale infection onboard ships. Multiport agreements may be suitable if one port has limited medical or housing capacity and a nearby port is able to supplement these capacities.

—Infected passengers could be allowed to use their own vehicles to drive to their homes and quarantine, reducing the contracted housing capacity cruise lines must demonstrate.

Cruise Lines International Association, a trade organization representing all of the major lines, said it was still reviewing the clarifications.

Consumer confidence in the US climbed in April to pandemic high

U.S. consumer confidence climbed sharply in April for a second month, reaching a pandemic high, as Americans grew more upbeat about the economy and job market.

The Conference Board’s index increased to 121.7, the highest since February last year, from a revised 109 reading in March, according to a Tuesday report. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for the gauge to rise to 113. In the past two months, the reading has increased 31.3 points, the most in records back to 1967.

“Consumer confidence has rebounded sharply over the last two months,” Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at the Conference Board, said in a statement. “Consumers were more upbeat about their income prospects, perhaps due to the improving job market and the recent round of stimulus checks.”

Americans are increasingly optimistic that the economy is improving as hiring accelerates and millions of people get vaccinated. As more businesses and cities reopen, consumers will have even more places to spend the savings they’ve accumulated during the pandemic. More than 43% of respondents said they plan to take a vacation in the next six months, nearly 10 percentage points more than in February.

The surge in confidence was led by the group’s measure of current conditions, which rose to 139.6, the highest in more than a year. At the same time, consumers’ economic expectations also advanced, though modestly.

Confidence among most income groups ticked up in the month, a sign that rising prices on some goods has not yet affected consumers’ economic outlook. Respondents said they expect inflation to rise in the next year.

Almost 38% of respondents said jobs were plentiful in April, also a pandemic high. A larger share of consumers expect their incomes to increase in the coming months.

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As for consumers’ buying plans, more Americans said they plan to buy homes and cars compared to last month.

By wire sources

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