Judge sides with Florida and says CDC cannot enforce Covid cruise ship rules

Governor De Santis hails ‘major victory’ following ruling that CDC’s ‘conditional sailing order’ is non-binding and merely a guideline

A federal judge in Florida ruled Friday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cannot enforce its Covid-19 rules for cruise ships in the state after 18 July.

Republican Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who sued the CDC over cruise ship rules in April, described US district judge Steven Merryday’s ruling as a “major victory”.

“The CDC has been wrong all along, and they knew it,” DeSantis said in a statement, claiming the agency was trying to “sink” Florida’s cruise industry industry, per the Washington Post.

“Today, we are securing this victory for Florida families, for the cruise industry, and for every state that wants to preserve its rights in the face of unprecedented federal overreach.”

Merriday’s decision means that the CDC’s “conditional sailing order” will merely be a “non-binding ‘consideration,’ ‘recommendation’ or ‘guideline’” when it comes to Florida cruises that set sail from 18 July.

Under this conditional sailing order, the CDC stated that companies could depart without delay if 95% of persons on board – passengers and crew – were vaccinated. If the 95% threshold weren’t met, CDC said, operators were required to bring volunteers on “test” trips to demonstrate that they can reduce Covid-19 risks.

The CDC can appeal Merryday’s decision, but he ruled that both sides must revisit mediation to find a solution. Merryday said that the CDC could find a modification that allowed this agency to hold on to some public health authority.

The CDC first stopped cruise ships from sailing in March last year because of the pandemic, which had sickened crew and passengers on vessels. On 30 October, CDC officials presented a four-phase framework which, they said, would enable operators to slowly resume cruises if they hit certain thresholds.

The Associated Press contributed to this report


Victoria Bekiempis and agencies

The GuardianTramp

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