Judge Favors Florida Over CDC in Cruise Lawsuit Ruling

A ruling from a federal judge could impact the cruise industry’s return later this summer.

A federal judge on Friday ruled for Florida in a lawsuit challenging a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention order making it difficult for cruise ships to resume sailing due to the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday granted a preliminary injunction that prevents 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.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody praised the decision in a statement Friday.

While the CDC could appeal, Judge Merryday ordered both sides to return to mediation to attempt to work out a full solution and said the CDC could fashion a modification in which it would retain some public health authority.

The CDC first 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 on Oct. 30 of last year imposed a four-phase conditional framework it said would allow the industry to gradually resume operations if certain thresholds were met.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said in a statement that framework imposed onerous bureaucratic requirements on the industry, such as requiring a “vaccine passport” for passengers and that cruise ships conduct a simulated voyage before embarking passengers.

Cruise lines are currently preparing to embark on simulated voyages. These test cruises will allow health officials and crew members to monitor safety protocols and potential COVID-19 outbreaks.

Disney Cruise Line will embark on a 2-day test cruise from Port Canaveral June 29.

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