Court stays judge’s ruling that CDC can’t enforce COVID cruise ship rules after July 18


A federal court voted to stay a judge’s decision ruling that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cannot enforce COVID-19 cruise ship rules after July 18.

The CDC win came after the state of Florida had sued the agency claiming that its restrictions on the cruise industry during the pandemic effectively blocked most cruises – harming the state’s livelihood. 

Earlier this month, the CDC asked a federal appeals court to U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday’s June 18 ruling on hold after he ruled in favor of Florida.

The Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit has not yet issued its opinions, but noted that one judge dissented in granting the stay.

A federal court voted to stay a judge’s decision ruling that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cannot enforce COVID-19 cruise ship rules after July 18

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, left, had praised the June ruling as a win over the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's COVID-19 rules for cruise ships

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky is pictured

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, left, had praised the June ruling as a win over the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 rules for cruise ships. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky is pictured right

The CDC first flatly halted cruise ships from sailing in March 2020 in response to the coronavirus pandemic, which had affected passengers and crew on numerous ships. 

Then the CDC imposed a four-phase conditional framework on October 30 that it said would allow the industry to gradually resume operations if certain thresholds were met.

Judge Merryday wrote in a 124-page decision last month that Florida would be harmed if the CDC order, which the state said effectively blocked most cruises, were to continue.

The Tampa-based judge granted a preliminary injunction that prevented the CDC from enforcing the order pending further legal action on a broader Florida lawsuit.

‘This order finds that Florida is highly likely to prevail on the merits of the claim that CDC’s conditional sailing order and the implementing orders exceed the authority delegated to the CDC,’ Merryday wrote.

Merryday’s decision had meant the CDC could not enforce those rules for Florida-based ships and that they would merely be considered nonbinding recommendations or guidelines.

The Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit announced the stay but has not yet issued its opinions

The Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit announced the stay but has not yet issued its opinions

However, Merryday had delayed the effect of his order until July 18.

Merryday also ordered both sides to return to mediation to attempt to work out a full solution – a previous attempt failed – and said the CDC could fashion a modification in which it would retain some public health authority. 

This would be similar to CDC guidelines for the reopening of other industries such as airlines, casinos, hotels, sports venues and subways, Merryday wrote. Otherwise, the cruise industry would face a daunting task to restart operations.

‘Florida persuasively claims that the conditional sailing order will shut down most cruises through the summer and perhaps much longer,’ the judge wrote.

He added that Florida ‘faces an increasingly threatening and imminent prospect that the cruise industry will depart the state.’

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a statement after the ruling that framework imposed onerous bureaucratic requirements on the industry.

He condemned such requirements including a ‘vaccine passport’ for passengers and that cruise ships conduct a simulated voyage before embarking passengers.

‘The CDC has been wrong all along, and they knew it,’ DeSantis said.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody praised the decision in a statement at the time of Merryday’s ruling.

‘Today’s ruling is a victory for the hardworking Floridians whose livelihoods depend on the cruise industry,’ said Moody, a Republican. 

‘The federal government does not, nor should it ever, have the authority to single out and lock down an entire industry indefinitely.’ 

Cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean have been gearing up to return to sailing under the CDC’s four-part framework. 

Meanwhile, however, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings – one of the world’s largest cruise operators – is suing the state of Florida in a bed to end its ban on vaccine passports – claiming that they help the company sail ‘safely and soundly.’ 

The company claims the ban violates federal law and contradicts rules set out by the CDC, USA Today reported.

‘The health and safety of cruise passengers, crew and the communities we visit remains the top priority for CLIA cruise line members,’ said Laziza Lambert, spokeswoman for the trade group Cruise Lines International Association.

‘Cruise ships are well on their way to offering the traveling public a high level of COVID-19 mitigation.’



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