Federal Court Blocks Order Lifting Florida COVID-19 Cruise Ship Rules

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A federal appeals court blocked a recent ruling that would lift COVID-19 protocols for cruise ships in Florida, meaning that the CDC’s pandemic restrictions will continue for now, according to The Associated Press.

The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals filed the decision at 11:50 p.m. Saturday, just minutes before the previous ruling was scheduled to take effect. The temporary stay keeps COVID-19 rules in place while the CDC appeals the lawsuit.

Since resuming operations this year, cruise ships have followed the CDC’s “conditional sail order” that requires COVID-19 prevention measures and a simulation cruise to test safety protocols before allowing passengers on board.

In a lawsuit supported by Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida claimed the CDC’s process creates a burden for the cruise ship industry, blocks much-needed jobs and hinders state tax revenue. The CDC argued that cruise ships should continue to follow the protocols to prevent future COVID-19 outbreaks, especially due to frequent stops at different ports and the lack of social distancing.

“The undisputed evidence shows that unregulated cruise ship operations would exacerbate the spread of COVID-19 and that the harm to the public that would results from such operations cannot be undone,” the CDC wrote in a court filing.

In June, U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday ruled in Florida’s favor, saying that the CDC can’t enforce protocols on Florida-based ships and that the rules should be considered guidelines or recommendations, the AP reported.

“Florida persuasively claims that the conditional sailing order will shut down most cruises through the summer and perhaps much longer,” he wrote in the filing.

In the most recent decision on Saturday, the 11th Circuit didn’t include remarks from the three-judge panel. Those will be released later, the AP reported.

Royal Caribbean Group and Carnival Cruise Line have launched their first cruises from Florida this summer under the CDC guidelines. On Saturday, Disney Cruise Lines held its first simulated sailing, the AP reported. The Disney Dream departed from Port Canaveral with volunteer Disney employees as passengers.


The Associated Press: “Court blocks order lifting CDC virus rules on cruise ships.”

U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals: “No. 21-12243-D.”

U.S. District Court Middle District of Florida: “No. 8:21-cv-839-SDM-AAS.”

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