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Blumenthal & Matsui Urge Strong Action to Avoid Additional COVID-19 Outbreaks on Cruise Ships as Cases Surge

Cruise passengers say cruise companies are not transparent about COVID-19 cases with those on board & passengers who test positive report unacceptable conditions

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Today, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and U.S. Representative Doris Matsui (D-CA) sent letters to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Cruise Line Industry Association (CLIA), urging them to take the actions necessary to protect the health and safety of cruise passengers and crew amid a growing tidal wave of COVID-19 cases on board due to the highly contagious Omicron variant. 

The current Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) was first announced in October 2020 and extended in October of last year, outlining health and safety protocols that would allow for the resumption of sailing. These mandatory measures are set to expire and turn into a voluntary program after January 15th, raising concerns about CDC’s ability to maintain most up-to-date information about cases aboard cruise ships and the public from being able to access this information. This comes just two weeks after the CDC issued a travel advisory to avoid cruises due to widespread outbreaks of COVID-19 cases aboard cruise ships.

“While the world battles the highest surge in COVID-19 cases to date, prioritizing and strongly enforcing measures that maximize the safety of all those on board cruise ships is critical. Prematurely transitioning to a voluntary program could allow companies to skirt necessary public health measures,” Blumenthal and Matsui wrote to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. “[W]e urge you to extend the mandatory CSO framework, ensure it is strictly enforced, and, if needed, reevaluate whether the current guidance is the most appropriate to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks aboard cruises in light of the new variant.”

In their letter to CLIA, Blumenthal and Matsui raised alarm about transparency from cruise lines regarding COVID-19 cases and conditions aboard cruise ships for passengers who test positive.

“Passengers on board ships with outbreaks say they have little accurate information about positive COVID-19 cases, and those who test positive report deplorable conditions. While ships continue sailing, cruise operators must take all actions necessary to prioritize the health and well-being of passengers and crew,” wrote Blumenthal and Matsui to CLIA President and CEO Kelly Craighead, pressing the industry for information about health and safety protocols.

Blumenthal and Matsui are long-time advocates for improving safety, security, and medical standards aboard cruise vessels. Together, they previously led efforts in November of 2020 and April of 2021 to urge the CDC to strictly enforce health and safety protocols. They are also 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 Matsui-led 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA). In 2020, important CPPA provisions to strengthen critical medical standards aboard cruise ships were enacted.

The full text of the letter to the CDC is available here. The full text of the letter to CLIA is available here.