CDC Granted Legal Rights to Enforce Cruise Ship Rules

A late-night court order in a federal appeals court has issued a significant setback to Florida’s attempt to lift restrictions by the federal government, which placed limitations on the cruise ship industry with hopes of curbing COVID-19 outbreaks.

The 2-1 vote by a panel of the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals decided to stay an order from a federal judge in Tampa. Last month, the order blocked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s framework for allowing cruises to resume operations.

A federal order shut down the cruise ship industry in March of last year after a series of infections of COVID-19 took place aboard large cruise ships.

The appeals court kept their order brief—one page to be exact. Right before midnight Saturday, the order was issued and provided no explanation for its ruling besides saying the federal government had made “the requisite showing” to get a stay to allow the CDC rules to stand.

Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis
filed the suit. He touted last month’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday, seeing it as a victory for Florida’s economic comeback following the major slowdown in tourism as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Florida now has to decide on how to proceed following Saturday’s ruling. It can ask the full 11th circuit bench to reinstate the injunction against the agency’s policy or seek relief from the Supreme Court.

Judge Merryday issued the now-lifted preliminary injunction at the request of DeSantis on June 18, claiming it appeared the CDC’s orders related to cruise ships exceeded its authority.

“The CDC cites no historical precedent in which the federal government detained a fleet of vessels for more than a year and imposed comprehensive and impossibly detailed ‘technical guidelines’ before again permitting a vessel to sail,” wrote Merryday, an appointee of President Donald Trump. “CDC cites no historical precedent for, in effect, closing an entire industry. … Although CDC enjoys the authority to temporarily detain a vessel…that authority is not boundless.”

The judge’s order would have gone into effect at midnight had the appeals court not acted.

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