US Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA) (pictured) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) have written to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), calling for the reinstatement of the cruise ship ‘no-sail’ order.
This follows multiple positive COVID-19 cases reported on board the first cruise ship to operate in the Caribbean since March.
“In light of these disturbing reports, we feel strongly that you should reverse course on the recent decision by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to take a phased approach to restarting cruise line operations in the US,” wrote the Members of Congress to CDC Director, Dr Robert Redfield. “Instead, we implore you to extend the prior ‘no-sail order’ until a time when the health and safety of passengers and crew can be assured.”
On Wednesday, the Norwegian-based cruise line company SeaDream Yacht Club announced that a passenger on board one of its ships in the Caribbean had preliminarily tested positive for COVID-19, even with all passengers undergoing rigorous testing before setting sail.
On 12th November, more cases were confirmed, with at least five people testing positive.
“Despite these efforts and good intentions, the virus was still able to infect multiple people on the ship, with the possibility of more confirmed cases emerging as passengers and crew are retested,” the letter said. “Unfortunately, this troubling development is not surprising and reaffirms the need to exercise extreme caution before sending passengers and crew back out to sea on cruises.”
The CDC lifted its ‘no-sail order’ for cruise ships on 31st October in favour of a phased approach to restarting operations.
The letter emphasised that the risks are especially high given current skyrocketing COVID-19 cases: “[I]t is unconscionable for the CDC to move forward on a plan to resume operations given the ongoing risks.
“While we appreciate the difficult economic situation cruise line operators face and the desire of many cruising enthusiasts to restore a sense of normalcy, the CDC must always put health and safety first to prevent further spread of this deadly virus and save lives,” they said in the letter.
Both Matsui and Blumenthal are lead sponsors of the Cruise Passenger Protection Act in Congress. The bill would build on the passenger safety measures signed into law in the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA).
This bicameral, bipartisan legislation is co-sponsored by Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) in the Senate and Representatives Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), and John Garamendi (D-CA) in the House.