‘CDC is putting American lives at risk’: Members of Congress call for CDC to reinstate cruise ‘no-sail’ order

Members of Congress are calling for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reinstate its “no-sail” order, which expired at the end of October and was replaced by a “Conditional Sailing Order” that allows a phased-in return to cruising.

“The CDC is putting American lives at risk, not to mention the potential for enhancing the spread worldwide,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, told USA TODAY Friday.

Blumenthal and Rep. Doris Matsui, a Democrat from California, who are co-sponsors of the proposed Cruise Passenger Protection Act, made the request for reinstatement in a letter to CDC Director Robert Redfield.

The letter came after a cluster of COVID-19 cases emerged on SeaDream Yacht Club’s SeaDream I, which is currently docked in Barbados after having to cut its first Caribbean voyage short due to the outbreak. “These multiple cases are only the first sign of a looming public health disaster,” Blumenthal said.

“In light of these disturbing reports, we feel strongly that you should reverse course on the recent decision by the (CDC) to take a phased approach to restarting cruise line operations in the United States,” Blumenthal and Matsui wrote. “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.”

They pointed out in the letter that in spite of the cruise line’s efforts to sail safely, including aggressive testing, social distancing, mask wearing requirements and more, the precautions weren’t enough to stop the coronavirus from infecting at least seven passengers on board the SeaDream.

“According to the CDC’s own no-sail order, ‘[c]ruise ships continue to be an unsafe environment with close quarters where the disease spreads easily and is not readily detected,'” the letter continues. “In fact, cruise ships were breeding grounds for the virus at the epicenter of the initial COVID-19 outbreak. With the images of passengers and crew stranded aboard the Grand Princess still fresh in our minds, it is imperative that we learn from the past and take immediate action to prevent history from repeating itself.”

The Grand Princess was one of two Princess Cruises ships that experienced an early outbreak of COVID-19, forcing passengers to quarantine during the pandemic’s onset in the beginning of March.

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