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Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald insisted in an "Axios on HBO" interview that his company did the right thing when it came to shutting down cruises earlier this month, despite criticism from some health experts who say it should have happened sooner.

Why it matters: Carnival has generated controversy for continuing to sail cruise ships after a CDC recommendation that all Americans defer cruise travel. Its Diamond Princess cruise ship, which was carrying hundreds of infected passengers, was held at sea for weeks before finally being able to dock in early March.

In the "Axios on HBO" interview, Donald said that being on a cruise ship was "a less risky environment" for passengers than being on land would have been:

  • "A cruise ship is not a more risky environment than being shoreside."
  • "A cruise ship in many ways is a less risky environment for a [virus to] spread than being shoreside."
  • "There are many protocols in place already on a cruise ship to detect, identify and isolate" infected people.
  • Donald added that a cruise ship is not like a theater or an arena: "It's more like Central Park. There's lots of natural social distancing [because] the ship is so large. People are not always gathered and clumped together."

The big picture: That assessment runs counter to the CDC's warning on March 8 — five days before Carnival halted cruises — that Americans "should not travel by cruise ship" because there was an "increased risk of infection of COVID-19 in a cruise ship environment."

  • Carnival did institute stricter boarding requirements in addition to its detection and isolation policies following the order and halted all travel after the State Department urged Americans not to take cruises and the CDC published a no-sail order on March 13.

“The cruise ship response was definitely lagging behind expert opinion on how big the risks are,” University of Chicago epidemiologist Katelyn Gostic told the Washington Post. “It was sluggish decision-making, and they should have responded earlier.”

  • Critics have long assailed the cruise industry for skirting labor and safety regulations and federal income taxes. Carnival, itself, recently pleaded guilty and agreed to pay a $20 million fine for violating a probation agreement stemming from a 2016 conviction for dumping waste into the ocean — and covering it up — for eight years.

What's next: There is not yet any official word from Carnival on what comes next for workers or from the government on possible coronavirus bailout proposals for the travel industry, cruises or Carnival in particular.

State of play: "One reason we are interested in sailing again as soon as is practical is because we touched so many small business owners around the world and here in the United States," Donald said in the interview.

  • "It's really important that those tens of thousands of people who are dependent on our industry, travel agents, small shop owners, taxi drivers, etc., all have an opportunity to make a living."

Go deeper

European Super League faces collapse after English soccer teams quit

Fans of Chelsea Football Club protest the European Super League outside Stamford Bridge soccer stadium in London, England. Photo: Rob Pinney/Getty Images

The European Super League announced in a statement Tuesday night it's "proposing a new competition" and considering the next steps after all six English soccer clubs pulled out of the breakaway tournament.

Why it matters: The announcement that 12 of the richest clubs in England, Spain and Italy would start a new league was met with backlash from fans, soccer stars and politicians. The British government had threatened to pass legislation to stop it from going ahead.

Corporate America finds downside to politics

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Corporate America is finding it can get messy when it steps into politics.

Why it matters: Urged on by shareholders, employees and its own company creeds, Big Business is taking increasing stands on controversial political issues during recent months — and now it's beginning to see the fallout.

Church groups say they can help the government more at border

A mural inside of Casa del Refugiado in El Paso, Texas. Photo: Stef Kight/Axios

Despite the separation between church and state, the federal government depends upon religious shelters to help it cope with migration at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Why it matters: The network supports the U.S. in times of crisis, but now some shelter leaders are complaining about expelling families to Mexico when they have capacity — and feel a higher calling — to accommodate them.