White House Blocked C.D.C. Order to Keep Cruise Ships Docked
September 30, 2020
Dr. Stephen Ostroff, a former acting commissioner of the F.D.A., who serves on the Healthy Sail group, said they have recommended that cruise passengers be tested before arriving at the ship, and then again before boarding.
“The one thing that you want to make sure of is that the virus doesn’t get on there in the first place,” Dr. Ostroff said.
Dr. Ostroff acknowledged that passengers who are exposed to the virus en route to the ship would not necessarily test negative, but could be infectious. He also said that the group’s other recommendations, such as allowing fewer passengers, enforcing mask wearing and installing improved air filtration systems, aim to limit the spread of the virus on a ship should an infected passenger board.
Brian Morgenstern, the White House deputy press secretary, denied that the administration’s cruise ship plans were politically motivated. “The president, the vice president and the task force follow the science and data to implement policies that protect the public health and also facilitate the safe reopening of our country,” he said.
Dr. Redfield is in a precarious position after weeks of public confrontations with the White House.
On Friday, he told a colleague that he was concerned that Dr. Scott W. Atlas, one of Mr. Trump’s top coronavirus advisers, was providing the president with misleading information, according to an NBC reporter who overheard Dr. Redfield’s telephone conversation on a commercial airplane.
The incident followed Mr. Trump’s rebuke of the director earlier this month, after Dr. Redfield testified at a Senate hearing that a vaccine would not be widely available until the middle of next year and that masks were perhaps even more important than a vaccine for curbing the spread of the virus. Mr. Trump told reporters later that day that he believed the director had “made a mistake.” A vaccine would go “to the general public immediately,” the president claimed, and “under no circumstance will it be as late as the doctor said.”
The C.D.C. under Dr. Redfield’s leadership has received harsh criticism from scientists about its handling of the of the pandemic, beginning with its botched rollout of testing kits last spring. This month, The New York Times reported that political appointees in the health department had pushed through C.D.C. guidelines — despite objections from the agency’s own scientists — saying that people without symptoms did not need to be tested for the coronavirus, even if they had close contact with an infected person. The agency then updated these guidelines to recommend testing, in line with public health experts.