It’s possible that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s restrictions on Florida cruises could be invalidated, according to a Friday court ruling.
For now, Florida has been granted a preliminary injunction that could render restrictions on cruising to and from the state imposed by the CDC as optional guidance starting next month.
“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 CDC,” the conclusion of the 124-page ruling issued by Judge Steven Merryday on Friday.
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis called the ruling a win for Florida in a statement Friday.
“Today, we are securing this victory for Florida families, for the cruise industry, and for every state that wants to preserve its rights in the face of unprecedented federal overreach,” DeSantis said.
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The state of Florida filed a complaint against Xavier Becerra, secretary of Health and Human Services, in U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Florida’s Tampa Division, alleging that the CDC exceeded its authority in issuing its “Framework for Conditional Sailing Order,” published in October.
Florida has also instituted a ban on vaccine passports, preventing businesses, including cruise lines, from requiring patrons to show proof of vaccination prior to entry. The ban goes into effect on July 1, though it is also outlined in an executive order from DeSantis.
That ban is in conflict with the CDC’s cruise regulations, which require ships to carry a certain threshold of vaccinated passengers to cruise in U.S. waters without conducting test cruises first.
As a result of the ruling, it is possible that the CDC’s “Conditional Sailing Order” will become only a recommendation as opposed to rule in Florida on July 18. However, through July 2, the CDC has the opportunity to propose a narrower injunction until July 2.
USA TODAY has reached out to the CDC.
“(The industry is) free to cruise unless the CDC comes up with a more narrow definition,” Jim Walker, maritime and cruise attorney, told USA TODAY Friday.
The health agency and the state of Florida have been sent back to mediation.
Walker said that he believes this could add to the “chaos and confusion of cruising during an ongoing pandemic.” He also said he believes it will ensure additional COVID-19 outbreaks.
“Cruise ships operating without strict COVID protocols in the ‘anything goes’ world of Gov. DeSantis will crash into a stark reality when cruise ports enforce their own protocols,” Walker said.
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