WASHINGTON – A federal appeals court late Friday reversed course and left in place a lower court order prohibiting the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from enforcing the rules. of cruises related to the coronavirus in Florida.
The decision is a victory for Florida, which filed a lawsuit arguing that CDC restrictions made it difficult for the cruise industry to recover from the pandemic.
The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta had only voted 2-1 Saturday to block the lower court’s decision.
But in its last short statement, the three-judge appeals panel said it had withdrawn its previous order on its own and was now rejecting the government’s request because it “had not shown a right to a stay pending appeal.”
The CDC said that while it cannot require cruise ships to comply with the sailing order, it will enforce its transit mask requirements separately on Florida cruises that choose not to follow the now voluntary program.
All cruise ships in Florida will be required to report “individual cases of illness or death and ship inspections and sanitary measures to prevent the introduction, transmission or spread of contagious diseases,” the CDC said Friday night.
Cruise lines that ensure that at least 95% of passengers and nearly all crew are vaccinated can avoid simulated trips and move more quickly to resume commercial travel and can allow vaccinated people to avoid masks inside common spaces, per CDC’s conditional navigation order.
Masks are not required in outdoor areas on cruise ships.
The conditional navigation order “represents the most effective way to continue to protect public health,” the CDC said.
The CDC “remains committed to working with the cruise industry and port partners” to ensure the safe resumption of operations, he added.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office said the state is pleased that the appeals court has lifted “the previous order that allowed the preliminary injunction to be in effect.”
The appeals court ruling came shortly after the state of Florida filed an emergency petition with the U.S. Supreme Court asking the superior court to lift the appeals court order, warning no action the state was “almost guaranteed to miss another summer cruise season.” while the CDC continues with its appeal, “the state said in its presentation to the Supreme Court.
In June, US District Judge Steven Merryday, siding with Republican-led Florida, found that it was “very likely” that the state would show that the CDC exceeded its authority by adopting rules governing the resumption of boating. on cruise ships.
In May, the CDC began approving some cruise operations after lengthy discussions with the industry on health and safety protocols. Operations were suspended in March 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The International Association of Cruise Lines, a trade group, did not say on Friday whether it supported Florida’s legal challenge, but said before the appeals court’s order that the cruise ships will continue to operate in accordance with CDC requirements.
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd has sued Florida, saying state law prohibiting cruise lines from requiring COVID-19 vaccine documentation prevented it from “safely and robustly resuming passenger cruise operations” from Miami to as of August 15 (report by David Shepardson and Lawrence Hurley in Washington; Edited by Leslie Adler, Matthew Lewis, and Himani Sarkar)