Judge to hear arguments in Florida cruise ship lawsuit against CDC
TALLAHASSEE, Florida – A federal judge will hear arguments on Thursday from Florida’s attempt to block federal restrictions on cruise ships during the COVID-19 pandemic, while lawyers for the U.S. Department of Justice indicate a return to cruise ship here the middle of summer.
U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday will hold a hearing in Tampa on Florida’s request for a preliminary injunction against restrictions imposed by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The hearing will take place after both parties reach an impasse in mediation to resolve the dispute.
The hearing will also come after industry giant Royal Caribbean announced Friday that it plans to start sailing from ports in Florida in July and August.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, backed by DeSantis, filed a lawsuit in April challenging CDC restrictions that slowed the industry after outbreaks on board ships at the start of the pandemic in 2020. The lawsuit Strong focus on a “conditional navigation order” that CDC initially released in October with a phased approach to resuming cruise ship operations.
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But lawyers for the US Department of Justice filed a brief Monday indicating, in part, that recent developments “further undermine” the state’s arguments that an injunction is necessary. These developments include the CDC approving simulated trips that involve testing the ability of cruise ship operators to mitigate the risk of viruses.
“The cruise is set to resume by the middle of the summer, and Florida cannot establish an irreparable injury that would occur in the absence of an injunction,” the file said. “The Applicant’s original request was based on the misconception that an ‘industry’ was ‘closed’ indefinitely. This has never been a valid characterization of CSO (conditional navigation order), and it clearly is not the case now. “
Federal restrictions have mingled with decisions made this spring by DeSantis and state lawmakers to ban companies – including cruise ships – from requiring so-called vaccine “passports” that would show people have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Opposition to federal restrictions has also become a high-profile political issue for DeSantis, whose office lambasted the CDC last week after the deadlock was reached in settlement talks.
“Unfortunately, the CDC has chosen to continue its ridiculous and illegal regulations that target a single industry by imposing vaccine requirements – something that no other company or industry should do,” a press release from the office said. by DeSantis.
Royal Caribbean on Friday announced plans to launch cruises from Miami on July 2 and Fort Lauderdale on July 3.
“Guests are strongly recommended to leave fully immunized, if they are eligible,” the company said in a press release. “Those who are not vaccinated or who are unable to verify vaccination will need to undergo testing and follow other protocols, which will be announced at a later date.”
The press release also states that “Royal Caribbean is continuing discussions with the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and several state, local and port authorities in the United States and with various destination communities regarding the various requirements for the upcoming crossings. “
The state’s lawsuit argues that the CDC overstepped its authority with the restrictions and that the conditional navigation order is “arbitrary and capricious.” In addition, he alleges that the CDC violated the Administrative Procedure Act, which deals with how agencies impose regulations and enforce laws.
Lawyers for the Department of Justice responded by saying that the federal government has long had the power to regulate ships to prevent the spread of communicable diseases.
During Thursday’s hearing, Merryday will also likely address arguments over a law signed last month by President Joe Biden known as the “Alaska Tourism Restoration Act.” The law provides temporary standards for cruise ships going to Alaska.
In the brief filed Monday, Justice Department lawyers reiterated arguments that the law ratified the conditional navigation order issued by the CDC. The brief argued that with the ratification, Congress “not only confirmed that the CDC had statutory authority to issue the order, but also extinguished” Florida’s claims under the Administrative Procedure Act. .