The U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure announced an investigation into Carnival Corporation’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic on Friday.
In a letter to CEO Arnold Donald, the chair of the committee Oregan Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio requested the cruise company turn over all internal documents and communications related to COVID-19 since Jan. 1. Citing repeated COVID-19 outbreaks on Carnival Corp. ships, and a history of norovirus outbreaks in the cruise industry, DeFazio said more robust health precautions must be required when the company begins operations again.
“We understand your business and economic livelihood is focused in the entertainment and travel industry, but the realities of the coronavirus pandemic demand that the incentive to entertain is checkered by a responsibility to protect the health of passengers and crew,” the letter said.
The world’s largest cruise company with headquarters in Miami, saw its Diamond Princess ship become the source of the largest COVID-19 outbreak outside China in mid-February. The cruise industry waited until March 13 to cancel new cruises despite repeated warnings of the dangers and has still not been able to return all passengers and crew to their homes. A Miami Herald investigation has found that travelers on at least 19 Carnival Corp. ships have tested positive for COVID-19, and 58 people have died.
In response to the probe, company spokesperson Roger Frizzell said in a 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.”
DeFazio and New York Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who leads the congressional subcommittee responsible for maritime oversight, also sent letters to the Coast Guard and Centers for Disease Control requesting any communications they might have had with Carnival related to COVID-19 from January 1, 2020 to the present.
Donald, who joined the company as CEO in 2013, has repeatedly downplayed the crisis, saying “very few” ships have been affected. The company operates 104 ships across its nine cruise lines: Carnival Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Seabourn, P&O Cruises Australia, Costa Cruises, AIDA Cruises, P&O Cruises, and Cunard; 19 have been affected.
“Cruise ships are not the cause of the virus, nor are they the reason for the spread in society,” he said earlier this month. “It’s not a dramatic impact compared to how the community spread occurred around the world.”
Competitors have not been immune. Passengers or crew on at least 18 of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.’s 51 ships have tested positive for the virus, and passengers on crew on at least six of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings’ 27 ships have tested positive. Across the entire global cruise fleet, the Miami Herald has found at least 2,787 people have been infected across 57 ships and at least 47 have died.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has banned cruising until July 24, or until the pandemic is declared over, citing the increased risk of COVID-19 spread on ships.
The House committee leading the probe into Carnival is also investigating Boeing after the company’s 737 Max plane crashed twice in five months killing nearly 350 people.
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