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The U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure is launching an investigation into Carnival Corporation's response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a letter sent to Carnival CEO Arnold Donald on Friday.
"Our Committee, the U.S. Congress, and the American public need to be assured that the global cruise line industry, and Carnival Corporation & PLC in particular, are instituting necessary measures to ensure that the safety of the traveling public and crew members will be your number one priority when your ships set sail again," committee chairman Peter DeFazio wrote.
The committee is asking Carnival for all documents related to the cruise line's coronavirus response, including a copy of the fleet-wide outbreak prevention and response plans, as well as any correspondence specifically related to the pandemic. They have requested that Carnival begins turning over the documents by May 15.
A spokesperson for Carnival Cruise Line confirmed that the committee's letter has been received and said the company will "fully cooperate."
"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," the company said in a statement.
The committee called cruise ships a "fertile breeding ground for infectious diseases" which will require "more robust health precautions and new social distancing protocols" in order to prevent a new wave of coronavirus infections. They believe Carnival in particular has done very little to protect its customers thus far.
"We would hope that the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic will place a renewed emphasis on public health and passenger safety, but frankly that has not been seen up to this point," the committee said. "It seems as though Carnival Corporation and its portfolio of nine cruise lines, which represents 109 cruise ships, is still trying to sell this cruise line fantasy and ignoring the public health threat.”
According to an investigation by the Wall Street Journal, evidence suggests cruise line operators were aware of the risks of the coronavirus on their ships but continued to sail anyway.
Carnival CEO Arnold Donald defended the company's response to the coronavirus in an interview with "Axios on HBO" back in March, saying that he did not believe it was a mistake to continue running cruises despite knowing that multiple passengers on a number of their ships had tested positive for COVID-19.
"If you look at the actual number of cases, cruise ships are not a source for coronavirus," Donald said. "We have hundreds of cruise ships out there. Very few had cases on them and the one that had the most cases was very early on when no one understood hardly anything."
Donald touted the company's medical precautions in an interview last week with FOX Business' Liz Claman.
"We already had a medical record screening," Donald said. "We already had temperature scanning. We already had the hand sanitizers throughout the ship. We already had signs everywhere about washing your hands. And we have a medical facility on board. And those things existed previously because we sail around the world."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported back in March that The Diamond Princess and Grand Princess ships had more than 800 confirmed coronavirus cases and 10 deaths. As of April 22, the agency reported that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases on those two ships is more than all of the confirmed cases in the states of Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, Alaska, or Hawaii.
According to the committee's letter, at least nine Carnival-owned ships have reported coronavirus outbreaks, resulting in more than 1,500 confirmed cases and at least 39 deaths, and the spread of the coronavirus from passengers on cruise ships, including Carnival's Diamond Princess and Grand Princess ships, have been linked to 15 states.
Last week, Donald said he has no idea when Carnival's cruises will sail again.
"At this point, we're taking the reservations, but clearly, we have no idea what the rest of the world, when we'll be in a position to sail again," Donald told "The Claman Countdown." "We know that day is coming. We just don't know exactly when. We just have to wait and see when the world is ready for a social gathering."
For now, the company plans to cancel its operations through at least June 26.
Carnival's stock closed at $13.93 per share at the end of Friday's trading session, plunging more than 12 percent.