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Congress looks at White House intervention in no-sail order

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney is worried about impairments to the independence of the CDC based on reported interference from the White House, HHS and cruise industry
A congressional subcommittee is looking into possible White House intervention in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's cruise ship no-sail order.

CDC extended the order one month, through October, following news reports that the Trump administration had overruled CDC Director Robert Redfield, who allegedly wanted the extension through February.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, a Democrat from New York who chairs the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, requested CDC records related to COVID-19's impact on the cruise industry. These should include, he said, crew emails, records and communications related to the no-sail order, communications with cruise line officials, state and local officials, and between CDC and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as well as the White House coronavirus task force.

Worried about CDC's independence

'... I am worried about impairments to the independence of the CDC’s science-based and unbiased public health advice based on reported interference from the White House and political leadership at the [HHS] as well as pressure from the cruise line industry,' Maloney wrote in a letter to Redfield.

The congressman expressed alarm about reports that President Trump's coronavirus task force made the decision to shorten the extension of the no-sail order in a Sept. 29 meeting after input from the cruise industry. He said the Oct. 31 date is 'particularly of note' as it is also the ending date of Cruise Lines International Association's voluntary suspension.

CDC warnings

Maloney's letter cited CDC's Sept. 30 no-sail order, which came with stern warnings about the risk of COVID-19 transmission on cruise ships and potential spread of the infection into US communities 'if passenger operations were to resume prematurely in the United States.'

The letter follows Maloney's request for CDC information in May when he raised concern about the public health implications posed by COVID-19 to passengers and crew in any decision to resume cruise operations. 

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