After a temporary blockade by a federal appeals court, pandemic restrictions for Florida-based cruise ship passengers will continue to be in effect after a Florida lawsuit challenged the previous ruling.
A three-judge panel from the 11th U.S. decided in a single paragraph. Circuit Court of Appeals was filed Saturday at 11:50 p.m., minutes before a Tampa judge had issued a previous ruling regarding the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention restrictions.
A temporary stay was issued by the judges to keep the CDC regulations concerning cruise ships based in Florida in force while the CDC appeals the June decision of U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday.
Republican Governor. Ron DeSantis claims that the CDC’s multi-step process for allowing cruising from Florida is too burdensome. This harms both a multibillion dollar industry that employs 159,000 people and the revenue that the state collects.
DeSantis spokeswoman did not respond to Sunday’s email and text messages seeking comment. Attorneys for Florida urged DeSantis to deny the 11th Circuit’s request that the CDC keep its rules in place for the time being.
Florida’s lawyers argued that “the equities overwhelmingly favor allowing cruise industry to enjoy their first summer season since two years while this Court resolves the contentions of the CDC on appeal.”
However, the CDC stated that the rules would be kept in place to prevent future COVID-19 epidemics on ships, which are more vulnerable to the virus’ spread due their close proximity and frequent stops at foreign port.
“The undisputed evidence demonstrates that unregulated cruise ships operations would exacerbate COVID-19 spread, and that the public harm that such operations would cause cannot be undone,” CDC stated in a court filing.
In March 2020, the CDC stopped all cruise ships from sailing. This was in response to the coronavirus epidemic that had affected many ships’ crews and passengers.
On Oct. 30, 2013, the CDC imposed a conditional framework in four phases that would allow the industry’s operations to slowly resume if certain thresholds are met. These included virus mitigation procedures as well as a simulation cruise to ensure that they were tested before regular passengers can board them.
Merryday’s decision ruled that the CDC cannot enforce these rules for Florida-based vessels and that they should be treated as non-binding recommendations or guidelines. Many cruise lines have already begun preliminary cruises following those guidelines. The Tampa judge agreed that they are too burdensome.
“Florida persuasively asserts that the conditional sailing orders will shut down most of the summer cruises, and possibly much longer,” wrote the judge in June. He also stated that Florida faces “an increasingly threatening and imminent prospect” that the state’s cruise industry will leave.
The 11th Circuit’s short decision did not contain any opinions from judges. However, the panel stated that they would release them later. One appeals judge was dissented in the decision.
Disney Cruise Lines’ first simulation sailing was held under CDC rules on Saturday, when the Disney Dream left Port Canaveral in Florida. All of the passengers were Disney employees.