A federal judge said on Friday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cannot enforce the rules and restrictions they have designed to make cruise travel safer amid the pandemic.
U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday granted the state of Florida a preliminary injunction against the health agency, writing that the state was “highly likely” to prevail in its lawsuit, which claims the agency has overstepped its authority by issuing a framework of rules on how to reopen.
Instead, the judge ruled, as of July 18, the CDC’s rules for operating cruise ships should be viewed as non-binding guidelines or recommendations.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) claimed the decision as a victory.
“The CDC was wrong from the start, and they knew it,” he said in a statement provided to The Washington Post.
The agency had told cruise ship operators that they must first build onboard laboratories to process coronavirus tests. Next, companies were to take a simulated cruise on each ship to demonstrate COVID-19 prevention strategies and plan ahead with health care providers in port cities in case someone on board fell with the. virus.
The CDC would issue a “conditional navigation certificate” to individual ships that could show they planned to sail with at least 95% of passengers vaccinated against COVID-19.
The agency had argued that the threat of the uncontrolled spread of COVID-19 outweighed any economic harm to the state caused by the restrictions, and that cruise ships were set to create high-profile events in unless handled with care.
In Florida, about 44% of the population is fully vaccinated.
The CDC had issued a series of “no-navigation orders” from mid-March 2020 to October 2020 amid growing concern over the coronavirus pandemic. Some of the first cases in the United States were detected on a cruise ship docked offshore.
At the end of October, the CDC drew up a plan to resume cruising safely; Florida filed a complaint in April over complaints from the industry.
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