A federal judge
ruled on Friday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
) cannot enforce the rules and restrictions put in place to make cruise travel
safer during the pandemic.
U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday granted the state of Florida
a preliminary injunction against the health agency, writing that the state was “highly likely” to prevail in its suit, which argues that the agency overstepped its authority by issuing a framework of rules for reopening.
Instead, the judge ruled that, as of July 18, the CDC's rules for operating cruise ships must be regarded as nonbinding guidelines or recommendations.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
(R) declared victory after the ruling.
“The CDC has always been wrong, and they knew it,” he said in a statement provided to The Washington Post
The agency had told cruise line operators that they needed to first build onboard laboratories to process coronavirus tests, then complete a simulated cruise on each ship to demonstrate COVID-19
prevention strategies, and make plans ahead of time with health care
providers in port cities in case someone onboard became infected with the virus.
Individual ships that could show they planned to sail with at least 95% of their passengers vaccinated against COVID-19 would be issued a "conditional sailing certificate" by the CDC.
The agency argued that the threat of unchecked COVID-19 spread outweighed any economic harm done to the state by the restrictions, and that cruise ships were poised to cause superspreader events if not handled carefully.
In Florida, approximately 44% of the population has received all of their vaccines
The CDC had issued a series of "no sail orders" from mid-March 2020 to October 2020, citing growing concern about the coronavirus pandemic
, with some of the first cases in the United States
discovered on a cruise ship docked off the coast.
The CDC issued a plan to resume cruises
safely at the end of October; Florida filed a lawsuit
in response to industry complaints.