CDC Scores A Win Against Gov. Ron DeSantis In Florida Cruise Saga
Oh, the drama. The ongoing soap opera that has engulfed Florida’s cruise industry had another plot twist late last night. A month ago, Governor Ron DeSantis crowed when a U.S. district judge in Tampa agreed that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) had overstepped its legal authority in creating its Covid-19 guidance for cruise ships.
But last night at 11:50 p.m., just 10 minutes before that ruling was about to take place, a federal appeals court issued a temporary stay while the CDC appeals the earlier decision.
That keeps the CDC’s Covid-19-related regulations regarding cruise ships in place—at least for now—in the state that is home to the three largest cruise ports in the United States.
“We are disappointed that the Obama and Clinton-appointed appellate judges found it appropriate to stay the trial court’s injunction and thus continue the CDC’s unlawful stronghold on an entire industry—costing Florida and its tourism industry hundreds of millions of dollars,” said Christina Pushaw, spokesperson for Governor DeSantis in an email. (Steven Merryday, the U.S. District Judge who ruled in favor of DeSantis, was appointed by George H.W. Bush.)
“While we remain confident in eventual success on the actual merits of this litigation, we are considering options for immediate appeal to reinstate the trial court’s injunction that enjoined the CDC’s No Sail Orders as unconstitutional and lacking congressional authority,” said Pushaw.
The long-running beef between Florida and the CDC is over DeSantis’s much-hyped but unpopular law banning so-called vaccine passports, which has left cruise lines in the unenviable position of being prohibited from verifying the vaccination status of passengers sailing from Florida.
That law makes it impossible for cruise lines to follow CDC guidance. The agency says that cruise lines offering sailings on ships with paying passengers need to make sure 95% of passengers are fully vaccinated before setting sail.
Recently, the Sunshine State has become the epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States, “with one in five cases occurring in Florida alone,” said Jeff Zients, the U.S. coronavirus coordinator, at Friday’s White House briefing. Florida, where only 47% of the population is fully vaccinated, is seeing an average of 49.3 new daily Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people, according to data from the Brown School of Public Health. That’s nearly double the threshold for “red” designation on the risk-assessment map.
Along with his law prohibiting businesses from asking individuals for proof of their vaccination status, Governor Ron DeSantis also has an executive order in place banning local governments from requiring face masks.
That has not stopped many local officials from expressing alarm. Last week, the mayor of Orange County, Florida — where Orlando and Walt Disney World are located — issued a “strong recommendation” for wearing face masks in crowded indoor places regardless of their vaccination status.
Also last week, Norwegian Cruise Line, the world’s third-largest cruise operator, filed a lawsuit against Florida, claiming that said the state’s ban hurts its ability to prevent the spread of the virus onboard ships. The cruise line had announced in April that it would require all passengers and crew on its ships to be “100% vaccinated” two weeks before boarding. The company described the lawsuit is a “last resort,” saying the Florida law has put it in an “impossible dilemma.”