Trump administration officials have once again sidelined the head of the country’s main public health agency as they formulated public health policy. This time, officials have torpedoed a plan to extend the “no sail” order on cruise ships until next year.
Cruise ships were the first outbreaks of coronavirus transmission at the start of the global pandemic, which is still far from being under control in the United States. Mass epidemics on tightly crowded social vessels forced the cruise industry to close in March, and the Centers for Disease Control issued a navigation ban order that will expire today, Wednesday, September 30.
At a meeting in the White House Situation Room on Tuesday, CDC Director Robert Redfield launched a recommendation to extend the sailing ban order until February 2021, according to a report by Axios. But Vice President Mike Pence, who chaired the meeting, told Redfield that the administration will set a different course.
Instead, the administration will extend the sail ban order only until October 31, in line with a self-imposed ban by the cruise industry. From now until then, the administration expects the cruise industry to demonstrate its plans to allow cruises to “navigate safely and responsibly and for companies to shoulder the burden of addressing any outbreaks,” according to officials. during the meeting. , cruise industry representatives will meet with Trump this Friday to present their plans and discuss whether the shipping ban order should be further extended.
Just last week, the Cruise Lines International Association, a trade group representing 95% of the industry, announced their health protocols and said they would be mandatory among industry members. Protocols include testing all passengers and crew for the novel coronavirus, wearing a mask, physical distancing measures, and improved ventilation.
However, such protocols have not proven effective in preventing major outbreaks on ships. In August, Norwegian cruise operator Hurtigruten, the first cruise company in the world to resume operations amid the global pandemic, promptly suspended all travel after an outbreak destroyed one of its ships. Hurtigruten’s CEO said at the time that “we weren’t good enough and made mistakes”.
Additionally, U.S. health officials have privately complained to Axios that the administration scuttled Redfield’s recommendation for political reasons. The cruise industry has significant economic influence in Florida, which is a critical battleground for the upcoming presidential election.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Brian Morgenstern denied these allegations of political tampering of the election year, saying, “The president, vice president and task force follow science and data to implement policies that protect public health and also facilitate public health. safe reopening of our country. It’s not about politics. It’s about saving lives “.
Trump administration officials spoke privately with Axios out of contempt for Redfield and described the CDC as a breeding ground for the “deep state” and anti-Trump efforts.
The sunken cruise ban is just the latest example of the Trump administration sidelining, weakening and interfering with the agency’s public health work and Redfield’s leadership during the coronavirus crisis. Other examples include CDC guidance interference on the COVID-19 test, mask use, timing for vaccination, school risks and reopening, hospital data collection, and release of CDC COVID-19 case studies .