CDC ex­tends ban on U.S. cruise ships amid data con­tro­versy

Chicago Sun-Times - - NATION / WORLD -

WASH­ING­TON — Fed­eral health of­fi­cials are ex­tend­ing the U.S. ban on cruise ships through the end of Septem­ber as coro­n­avirus in­fec­tions rise in most U.S. states, in­clud­ing Florida.

The Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion an­nounced Thurs­day that it was ex­tend­ing a no-sail or­der that had been sched­uled to ex­pire July 24.

In the or­der signed by CDC Direc­tor Dr. Robert Red­field, the agency said the cruise in­dus­try hasn’t con­trolled trans­mis­sion of the virus on its ships.

The CDC said it was con­cerned whether cruise ships op­er­at­ing now with re­duced crews were com­ply­ing with prac­tices de­signed to pre­vent trans­mit­ting the virus.

Mean­while, hospi­tal data re­lated to the coro­n­avirus pan­demic in the U.S. will now be col­lected by a pri­vate tech­nol­ogy firm, rather than the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion — a move the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion says will speed up re­port­ing but one that con­cerns some public health lead­ers.

The CDC’s Red­field said Wed­nes­day that he’s fine with the change — even though some ex­perts fear it will fur­ther side­line the agency.

TeleTrack­ing Tech­nolo­gies, based in Pitts­burgh, will now col­lect that in­for­ma­tion.

Gre­gory Koblentz, a biode­fense ex­pert at Ge­orge Ma­son Univer­sity, said the change ap­pears to be con­sis­tent with ad­min­is­tra­tion moves in re­cent months that have side­lined the CDC from the role it has played in other epi­demics, as the public’s pri­mary source of in­for­ma­tion.

“We know the ad­min­is­tra­tion has been try­ing to si­lence the CDC,” he said. “Now it looks like the ad­min­is­tra­tion might be try­ing to blind the CDC as well.”

The White House di­rected a re­quest for com­ment to HHS.

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