Over 1,500 Infected, Yet Carnival Cruises Continue to Sail

April 24, 2020

Over 1,500 Infected, Yet Carnival Cruises Continue to Sail

“Nobody should be going on cruise ships during this pandemic, full stop.” – Cindy Friedman, CDC epidemiologist

One of the first COVID-19 outbreaks to capture global attention was on the Diamond Princess, a cruise ship operated by Carnival Corp. that was held off the coast of Japan for weeks in February. At the time, the ship housed more infected people than any nation, excluding China. While COVID-19 was still in relatively early days at the time, records show that Carnival had ample warning from multiple sources. Yet Carnival neglected to inform its passengers of any issue for over 43 hours. Worse still, even after Carnival informed its passengers about the infection on board, it still held most of its scheduled events and encouraged guests to continue mingling.

Then, despite already having experienced a large outbreak, Carnival did not develop a plan for the rest of its cruises. Carnival did not begin canceling its cruises until forced to do so in mid-March. Carnival’s lack of preparation, and its refusal to take early and decisive action, led to 2,000 passengers on the Grand Princess having to be quarantined on U.S. military bases after passengers tested positive for COVID-19. Indeed, on March 3—13 days into the trip—passengers received a letter under their cabin doors, announcing that the CDC had begun “investigating a small cluster” of COVID-19 cases in California that might have been linked to the Grand Princess. Though Carnival put up new hand sanitizer stations and encouraged crew members to begin wearing gloves, it continued with its regularly scheduled events, many of which involved audiences in the hundreds. Two days later, the ship announced that all passengers were required to shelter in place. Of the first round of people tested, nearly half were positive.

Between the Diamond Princess and Grand Princess cruises alone, at least 850 people were infected and 14 died. Yet, still, Carnival continued to sail. On March 27 it was reported that four more people had died and at least 138 were infected on the Zaandam, a ship that is part of Carnival’s Holland America line.

And, as of early April, Carnival still had passengers at sea, nearly a month after the CDC issued a public advisory on March 8th to “defer all cruise ship travel worldwide.” Carnival executives continue to say they’re proud of how they served the customers aboard these cruises. Yet Carnival spokesperson Frizzell says the company wasn’t “under any legal obligation to follow the CDC’s advice” (emphasis added). 

Not only do the confined quarters of a cruise ship put guests at greater risk of infection—both the Grand Princess and Diamond Princess had infection rates of 20%—but many of the passengers are also in the at-risk category. Cindy Friedman, an epidemiologist who is part of the CDC’s cruise ship task force, stated that two thirds of Zaandam’s passengers were above the age of 65. In the words of one of the passengers, “For some people, it will be the last trip of their lives.”

If you or a loved one were on board a cruise ship that you believe put you at risk of contracting COVID-19, Keller Rohrback is here to help. Please contact us at covid19support@kellerrohrback.com or (800) 776-6044. To learn more about our cruise ship investigation, please go here.

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