After US Senators Rick Scott, Marco Rubio and Dan Sullivan introduced the CRUISE Act to compel the CDC to resume US cruises, Congresswoman Doris Matsui and US Senator Richard Blumenthal have sent a letter to agency urging it to hold fast.
The letter was sent to Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director, CDC, urging her to strictly enforce recently issued safety guidance under the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order, and to halt all cruises if an outbreak occurs after sailing do resume.
Matsui and Blumenthal argued in their letter that resuming US cruises prematurely could threaten public safety and increase the spread of the coronavirus.
“Given the potential for a large, virus spreading event on a cruise ship, the CDC appropriately issued its No-Sail Order to suspend cruise ship operations,” they wrote in their letter.
“While the United States makes progress toward our shared goal of beating this pandemic, COVID-19 remains a grave public health risk that requires ongoing vigilance,” the lawmakers added. “Prematurely lifting restrictions on cruising – with thousands of people in close proximity and conditions ripe for spread of infections – threatens a serious setback in this progress.”
Congresswoman Matsui and Senator Blumenthal describe themselves as long-time advocates for improving safety, security, and medical standards aboard cruise vessels.
They are lead sponsors of the Cruise Passenger Protection Act (CPPA) in Congress. The bill would build on the passenger safety measures signed into law in the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA), which was led by Matsui.
Last year, CPPA provisions were enacted which would strengthen critical medical standards aboard cruise ships.
The letter to the CDC comes as the agency faces mounting pressure from the cruise industry and its advocates for US sailings to resume.
The full text of the letter:
Dear Director Walensky:
We write today with significant concern about the prospect of premature resumption of cruise ship operations that could threaten public safety and increase the spread of the coronavirus. While the United States is making significant progress in distributing COVID-19 vaccines, introduction and spread of COVID-19 by cruise ship crew and passengers could undermine this progress and require additional mitigation measures that delay our economic recovery and put public health at severe risk. We urge you to strictly enforce the technical guidance issued under the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) to minimize this threat, and take all appropriate steps—including halting cruises as necessary—if outbreaks occur on board.
In its March 14, 2020, No-Sail Order, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledged the “increased risk of transmission on cruise ships” noting that outbreaks on cruise ships had “resulted in countless hours of work for numerous already-burdened public health officials.” Given the potential for a large, virus spreading event on a cruise ship, the CDC appropriately issued this No-Sail Order to suspend cruise ship operations. On April 2, 2021, the CDC issued the first phase of technical guidance under the CSO, which was implemented on October 31, 2020 by the previous administration. This guidance outlines procedures and protocols that will allow resumption of cruise ship travel when it is safe to do so. Failing to adhere to this guidance could create unsafe conditions that jeopardize public health. Therefore, we believe it is a public health imperative that the CDC rigorously enforce the technical guidance under the CSO and take all necessary measures, including stopping cruise line operations as needed, if COVID-19 outbreaks happen aboard ships.
While the United States makes progress toward our shared goal of beating this pandemic, COVID-19 remains a grave public health risk that requires ongoing vigilance. Prematurely lifting restrictions on cruising – with thousands of people in close proximity and conditions ripe for spread of infections – threatens a serious setback in this progress. It is absolutely critical that we listen to scientists and health and safety experts over the industry and its profit-driven executives.
Thank you for your attention to this important public health matter.