Thank you for supporting our journalism. This article is available exclusively for our subscribers, who help fund our work at the Orlando Sentinel.
A federal court granted a preliminary injunction against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and its conditional sail order that has shut down the cruise industry during the COVID-19 pandemic, but has delayed that injunction for a month to let the CDC propose some changes.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday is part of a larger lawsuit brought by the state of Florida that contends the CDC has overstepped its authority through its orders that have limited cruise lines’ ability to return to business.
“The CDC has been wrong all along, and they knew it,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis in a press release. “The CDC and the Biden Administration concocted a plan to sink the cruise industry, hiding behind bureaucratic delay and lawsuits. 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.”
By granting the injunction, the court deemed that Florida was likely to succeed in the overall case on its merits, demonstrating the state would be harmed if the order continues, but also sent both the state and CDC back to mediation.
“Today’s ruling is a victory for the hardworking Floridians whose livelihoods depend on the cruise industry,” said Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody. “The federal government does not, nor should it ever, have the authority to single out and lock down an entire industry indefinitely.”
The ruling means the CDC cannot enforce its order against a ship from a Florida port, but the court is delaying its enforcement until July 18, allowing the CDC to propose alternate parameters to the injunction.
The CDC now has no later than July 2 to propose a narrower inunction that would both permit cruise ships to sail in a timely manner while also remaining within the CDC’s authority. The parameters of that, though, must support the proposed terms with “current scientific evidence and fully disclose — if unavailable to the public — scientific evidence, including methodology, raw data, analysis, and the like and the names and qualifications of the scientists participating in the study, modeling, or the like.”
After July 18, whatever form the final injunction is in place, the courts state’s the CDC’s conditional sailing order can remain only as a “non-binding ‘consideration,’ ‘recommendation’ or ‘guideline,’ the same tools used by CDC when addressing the practices in other similarly situated industries, such as airlines, railroads, hotels, casinos, sports venues, buses, subways, and others.”
Several cruise lines are set to return to business from Florida and other states this month. Royal Caribbean, for instance, was set to sail on a simulated voyage of Freedom of the Seas from PortMiami this Sunday.
The test voyage is meant to prove out its COVID-19 safety protocols to the CDC under the conditional sail order in an effort to receive its conditional sailing certificate, which the order requires if the ship is to sail with paying customers.
Royal Caribbean has a goal to sail Freedom of the Seas on July 2 assuming it receives the CDC certificate, and plans to sail with four other ships from Florida ports before the end of August.
Its sister line Celebrity Cruises plans to sail Celebrity Edge from Port Everglades on June 26, using the vaccine alternative the CDC has presented in order to get its conditional sailing certificate. That alternative asks that lines sail with at least 98% crew and 95% passengers fully vaccinated.
Some lines like Disney and Royal Caribbean have opted for the test sailings since they have a lot of family customers and those CDC thresholds would be difficult to achieve.
This is a breaking news story. Check back for updates.