A federal judge sided with Florida in a lawsuit about cruises against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, saying it overstepped its authority.
Judge Steven Douglas Merryday the state’s request for a preliminary injunction batting the CDC from enforcing its conditional sail order– a set of cruise guidelines for cruise companies wanting to resume sailing in the U.S. that was put in place in October last year– beginning July 18. “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 ruling said.
Judge Merryday contrasted the approach the agency took with the cruise industry to the voluntary recommendations it gave for other leisure and hospitality industries, such as hotels, casinos, and sporting arenas. The Judge said the CDC has until July 2 to propose new guidelines for cruises, “both permitting cruise ships to sail timely and remaining within CDC’s authority.”
“Florida establishes a strong likelihood that many or almost all cruise ships will remain unable to sail for the entire summer season. And each day the cruise industry faces uncertainty about when cruises can resume, Florida not only suffers a concrete economic injury resulting from reduced revenue and increased unemployment spending, but Florida faces an increasingly threatening and imminent prospect that the cruise industry will depart the state,” the ruling said.
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Judge Merryday said decreasing infection rates and increasing vaccinations in the U.S. have reduced the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks aboard cruises. “The availability of vaccines and testing and the comparatively trivial incidence of infection on foreign cruises—all quickly identified and confined—commends optimism about the safe operation of sailing in the United States, which enjoys high rates of vaccination and greatly enhanced, onboard containment mechanisms,” Judge Merryday wrote.
The lawsuit began when Florida Governor Ron DeSantis sued the CDC in April in an attempt to resume a large Floridian industry: cruising. Cruising with more than 250 people has been banned in U.S. waters since March 2020. “The CDC has been wrong all along, and they knew it,” DeSantis said in a statement. “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.” The first cruise ship set to sail from U.S. waters since then is the Celebrity Edge, which is scheduled to depart from Florida on June 26.