CDC Appeals Judge’s Injunction Against Conditional Sail Order in Florida

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today appealed a federal judge’s June 18 ruling, which granted a preliminary injunction against the agency, preventing it from enforcing the terms of its Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) on cruise operations in Florida.

Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis first filed a lawsuit against the federal Department of Health and Human Services, and the CDC back in April for what he called an “unlawful” shutdown of the cruise industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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On June 19, U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday issued his 124-page ruling, stating that the CDC had likely exceeded its authority in the matter and opining that being forced to implement the CSO’s regulations would harm the state of Florida, which the state claimed would prevent cruise ships from sailing (or, at least, soon enough to benefit from the peak season).

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In today’s appeal, the CDC countered with an argument that Merryday’s ruling could fuel the pandemic, citing, “undisputed evidence shows that unregulated cruise ship operations would exacerbate the spread of Covid-19 and that the harm to the public that would result from such operations cannot be undone. Cruise ships are uniquely situated to spread Covid-19, due in part to their close quarters for passengers and crew for prolonged periods, and stops at foreign ports that risk introducing new variants of Covid-19 into the U.S.”

Defending its Conditional Sail Order, the CDC said, “It does not shut down the cruise industry but instead provides a sensible, flexible framework for reopening, based on the best available scientific evidence.”

The national public health agency also argued its return-to-service approach had been developed in concert with cruise industry operators, and that DeSantis’ new law against providing proof of vaccination would stall the viable restart of the industry—not the CSO.

“The injunction—together with Florida’s refusal to allow cruise lines to verify the vaccination status of their passengers—will disrupt the orderly process for resuming operations that the CDC developed in close consultation with the cruise industry,” the CDC argued.

The CDC also refuted the judge’s argument that the CDC overstepped its authority in setting the CSO’s rules and regulations, saying, “It is well within the CDC’s traditional authority to require such measures to prevent the introduction or spread of communicable disease into the United States from foreign-flagged ships seeking to operate in U.S. waters.”





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