Carnival Cruise Line executives knew about the deadly novel coronavirus but failed to stop sailing or take adequate steps to protect passengers from its spread, according to an April 16 online report by Bloomberg titled “Socially Distance This.”
The news agency said more than 1,500 people on Carnival’s cruise ships have been diagnosed with coronavirus and dozens have died.
Covid-19 Outbreak on the Grand Princess and Diamond Princess
Carnival first communicated news about Covid-19 to passengers on its Grand Princess cruise ship on March 4 in a letter slipped under passenger cabin doors, Bloomberg reported. The letter announced that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had started to investigate “a small cluster” of coronavirus cases in California that might have been connected to the cruise ship, according to the report.
Passengers interviewed for the article said they noticed new hand sanitizer stations on the ship and crew members wearing gloves but no other changes. Life on the cruise ship continued as normal with passengers reporting no change to scheduled activities such as shows, bridge played at shared tables, line dancing classes and a lecture, the report said.
Bloomberg said the captain of the Grand Princess announced a quarantine at lunchtime on March 5, instructing all of the ship’s 2,422 passengers to report to their cabins and shelter in place. Passengers allegedly swamped the ship’s stores, restaurants and buffet and crowded into elevators and inside the ship’s narrow hallways.
Out of the first 46 passengers and crew members who were tested for the virus, 21 tested positive, the report said.
As of April 12, 2020, there have been 78 confirmed cases of coronavirus on the Grand Princess, according to a report by Business Insider.
Bloomberg said the outbreak on the Grand Princess wasn’t the cruise line’s first or final outbreak.
“In February, another one of its ocean liners, the Diamond Princess, accounted for more confirmed Covid-19 infections than any other nation except for China,” Bloomberg said.
On Feb. 1 while the Diamond Princess was on a multiweek cruise in Asia, one of the ship’s sanitation vendors allegedly sent an e-mail alert about a former passenger being treated for Covid-19 in Hong Kong and requesting that the crew disinfect the ship. However, the e-mails weren’t read for “at least days,” according to the report.
Moreover, Carnival didn’t tell passengers that they might have been exposed to Covid-19 until Feb. 3, approximately 43 hours after the alert had been sent, Bloomberg said.
At least seven more of Carnival’s ships have become “hot spots” for the virus, which has resulted in more than 1,500 positive infections and at least 30 deaths, the news agency reported.
There have been 712 confirmed cases of coronavirus on the Grand Princess, according to the Business Insider report.
Carnival Says It Acted Reasonably Dealing with Coronavirus
Carnival President and Chief Executive Officer Arnold Donald said his company acted reasonably in dealing with the unprecedented global event, the report said. In the article, Donald referred to each ship as a “mini-city” and said Carnival’s response to the pandemic should be judged in the same way that national and local governments are judged.
Donald also claimed that Carnival was unable to dock every ship after the initial outbreaks because ports, airports and borders had been closed.
A CDC spokesperson said Carnival “helped fuel the crisis” because several of the company’s affected cruise ships didn’t start their voyages until after Carnival knew of the risk, according to Bloomberg.
Carnival executives have denied that diseases like coronavirus spread more easily on cruise ships.
However, the CDC pointed out that coronavirus rates on two of Carnival’s ships are right around 20%, which is much higher than the spread in other locations such as subways or grocery stores, in part because a large number of cruise passengers are older than 65 and in the high risk group for the virus, Bloomberg reported.
Cruise Lines Facing Passenger Lawsuits
Carnival is facing fallout from its decision-making. Australian police have started a criminal investigation into whether the company’s Princess Cruises subsidiary deceived authorities about an outbreak on a vessel docked there.
The company also is dealing with financial hardship as Carnival and other cruise lines have been forced to cancel cruises but have been left out of the federal bailout of U.S. businesses because they are incorporated offshore and don’t pay U.S. taxes.
Plus, passengers who were on cruise ships that had outbreaks of Covid-19 have started to sue the cruise lines, including Carnival and its various subsidiaries.
While the allegations in each case differ, the underlying theme of the lawsuits is that the cruise lines acted negligently by setting sail despite warnings about the global spread of the disease, failing to warn passengers that people on previous cruises had become ill or died from the disease and failing to take sufficient measures to stop the spread of the virus.
Other coronavirus suits have been filed by crew members against the cruise lines. Thousands of crew members have been stranded on cruise ships, including Carnival ships, affected by Covid-19.
Carnival canceled all of its cruises in mid-March and is offering travelers refunds or vouchers for future cruises.
Carnival maintains that its priority is the health and safety of its guests and crew. The company said on its website in an April 13 health and sailing update that it’s working with public health experts and the Cruise Lines International Association to monitor, screen and implement best practices to protect the health of guests and crew with regard to Covid-19. Carnival said its protocols are flexible and allow for the cruise line to adapt to changes as they occur.
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