Another chapter in Florida’s battle against the CDC was written over the weekend.
On Friday, a federal appeals court ruled in favor of Florida in its case against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), supporting the state’s assertion that the CDC’s restrictions for the cruise industry’s restart were overly burdensome.
Now, with that ruling from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, the CDC’s pandemic requirements are no longer mandatory for cruise lines operating out of Florida. Instead, the CDC regulations will become a recommendation for the industry’s restart instead of a requirement.
The ruling comes a week after the court had kept the CDC regulations in place while the CDC appealed the original June decision by U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday, who ruled in favor of Florida in the lawsuit championed by Governor Ron DeSantis.
The court did not offer an explanation of the change in course, but it came just as Florida’s Attorney General brought the case to the Supreme Court, a higher court that could reverse the 11th Circuit’s stay.
In that Supreme Court appeal, Moody wrote that the CDC “has, for the better part of 16 months, shut down the entire Nation’s cruise industry.”
“From March to October 2020, the CDC categorically banned cruising,” Moody wrote. “The CDC’s Order is manifestly beyond its authority, as the district court correctly concluded in preliminary enjoining it.”
According to the lawsuit, those restrictions include social-distancing onboard in outdoor areas like swimming pools and while waiting for the bathroom, and requirements to run “self-funded experiments called ‘test voyages.”
The court battle started earlier this year. Fla. Gov. Ron DeSantis sued the CDC in April, alleging that the CDC’s Conditional Sail Order (CSO) was unfairly harming the cruise industry. Judge Merryday ruled in favor of the state in June with DeSantis declaring “a really strong victory” after the ruling came down.
The American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA), which intervened in the original case as an amicus in support of Florida, applauded that decision and said that the original ruling puts the cruise industry on equal footing with the treatment of other businesses, including airlines, hotels, and railroads.
The CDC appealed that ruling weeks later, arguing that despite the judge’s ruling, the CSO does not “shut down” the cruise industry as Florida has argued, but instead provides a path for the industry to move forward safely.
U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday denied the CDC a stay in the lawsuit. Merryday wrote in his decision that the CDC’s argument about “dire prospects of ‘transmission’ of COVID-19 aboard a cruise vessel…dismiss state and local health authorities, the industry’s self-regulation, and the thorough and costly preparations and accommodations by all concerned to avoid ‘transmission’ and to confine and control the ‘transmission,’ if one occurs.”
The CDC then appealed the decision to the 11th Circuit of Appeals, which issued its ruling last weekend before reversing its decision on Friday.