US appeals court blocks ruling that would have suspended CDC rules on cruise ships

Cruise ships are seen docked at the Port of Miami as the tourism industry is affected by the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Miami, Florida, United States, March 26, 2020. REUTERS / Carlos barria

WASHINGTON, July 18 (Reuters) – A U.S. appeals court in a 2-1 decision on Saturday night stayed a lower court ruling that said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not could not enforce its coronavirus cruise ship rules as it is.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday, who sided with Republican-led Florida, said the state was “very likely” to show the CDC overstepped its authority by passing rules governing the resumption of navigation of cruise ships.

The brief order from the 11th Circuit panel came about 10 minutes before Merryday’s ruling took effect on Sunday, which would have made the CDC’s rules a non-binding recommendation rather than a mandatory one.

The CDC began approving certain cruise operations in May after lengthy discussions with industry over health and safety protocols.

His conditional navigation order said cruise lines that ensure at least 95% of passengers and almost all crew members are vaccinated could bypass mock trips and move faster to resuming commercial travel.

The Justice Department said last week in an appeals court filing that “there is no basis to lift the COVID-19 health and safety protocols that have been developed by (CDC) in conjunction with the cruise ship industry “.

The CDC declined to comment on Sunday.

The offices of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and State Attorney General Ashley Moody did not immediately comment on Sunday. DeSantis had argued that the CDC’s rules ignored “the freedom of Floridians to make decisions for their families.”

Florida, a major hub for cruise lines, said in April that its ports had suffered a drop in operating revenues of nearly $ 300 million since the start of the pandemic.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH.N) sued the State of Florida on Tuesday, claiming state law prevented it from “resuming safely and soundly passenger cruise operations” from Miami from August 15th. A judge issued a preliminary injunction on August 6. hearing.

Florida state law expressly prohibits cruise lines from requiring documentation of COVID-19 vaccines.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Daniel Wallis

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