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Congress investigates Carnival Corp.'s handling of coronavirus

PHOTO: ANNE KALOSH The Capitol.jpg
House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure seeks assurances Carnival. Corp. is ensuring the safety of the traveling public and crew members
The US House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure opened an investigation into how Carnival Corp. dealt with COVID-19 on its cruise ships.

In a letter to President and CEO Arnold Donald on Friday, Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio cited outbreaks on Carnival vessels and a history of norovirus on ships belonging to Carnival and other lines.

'Fertile breeding ground for infectious diseases'

'Cruise ships are a fertile breeding ground for infectious diseases due to their environmental conditions and physical structure,' DeFazio asserted.

He cited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's warning that 'Cruise ships are often settings for outbreaks of infectious diseases because of their closed environment, contact between travelers from many countries and crew transfers between ships.'

The CDC, he added, had linked the spread of COVID-19 from passengers on cruise ships to 15 states.

Media allegations

Recent media allegations about Carnival's pandemic response are 'quite disturbing,' DeFazio went on, particularly citing a Bloomberg story. 'They suggest that officials at Carnival were aware of the coronavirus threats to some of its ships and did not take appropriate actions, which may have led to greater infections and the spread of the disease. Even a senior CDC official, who leads the CDC’s cruise ship task force, was quoted as saying she had a hard time believing that Carnival was simply "a victim of happenstance."'

'More robust precautions paramount'

DeFazio said 'more robust health precautions and new social distancing protocols will be paramount to preventing the re-emergence and spread of new COVID-19 infections' when cruise operations resume.

Assurances needed

'Our Committee, the US Congress and the American public need to be assured that the global cruise line industry, and Carnival Corporation & plc in particular, are instituting necessary measures to ensure that the safety of the traveling public and crew members will be your number one priority when your ships set sail again,' the letter continued.

DeFazio called for Carnival Corp. to produce company records pertaining to coronavirus on its ships along with fleetwide outbreak prevention and response plans that were in place going back to Jan. 1, as well as correspondence with the CDC and other public health agencies.

The Committee also asked for records related to Carnival's handling of coronavirus from the CDC and from the US Coast Guard. Lawmakers want to see these records starting May 15.

Carnival response

In response to the investigation, Carnival Corp. spokesman Roger Frizzell provided this statement: 'Our goal is the same as the Committee's goal: to protect the health, safety and well-being of our guests and crew, along with compliance and environmental protection. We are reviewing the letter and will fully cooperate with the Committee.'