Ports & Waterways

CDC can’t regulate cruises: judge

A federal judge in Florida on Friday ruled that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) coronavirus-era sailing orders were an overreach of power, issuing a preliminary injunction temporarily barring the CDC from enforcing the guidelines. 

Judge Steven Merryday for the Middle District of Florida in his ruling sided with the Sunshine State in its argument that the “CDC’s conditional sailing order and the implementing orders exceed the authority delegated to CDC.” 

As a result, Merryday approved Florida’s motion for a preliminary injunction suspending the mandatory guidelines for cruise ships, writing that the CDC is “preliminary enjoined from enforcing against a cruise ship arriving in, within, or departing from a port in Florida the conditional sailing order and the later measures.” 

The injunction will stay in place until July 18, at which point the “conditional sailing order and the measures promulgated under the conditional sailing order will persist as only a non-binding ‘consideration,’ ‘recommendation’ or ‘guideline,’” as is the case for other industries such as restaurants, railroads and hotels, according to the ruling.  

The cruise industry had previously been under a conditional sailing order issued by the CDC since the end of October, under which cruise lines were required to commit to a phased approach of implementing testing and other safety measures before they could start sailing. 

The conditional sailing order followed the end of the CDC’s no-sail order amid the coronavirus pandemic, and the CDC last month released the final guidance for cruise lines to apply to run test ships with voluntary passengers. 

Merryday wrote in his ruling Friday, “Never has CDC conditioned pratique as extensively and burdensomely as the conditional sailing order; and never has CDC imposed restrictions that have summarily dismissed the effectiveness of state regulation and halted for an extended time an entire multi-billion dollar industry nationwide.” 

“In a word, never has CDC implemented measures as extensive, disabling, and exclusive as those under review in this action,” he added. 

Friday’s ruling resulted from an April lawsuit filed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on behalf of the state against the CDC and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra arguing that the sailing orders and health requirements issued by the CDC for cruise lines were “arbitrary and capricious” and amounted to an unconstitutional overstepping of the agency’s authority. 

DeSantis, who has long railed against coronavirus safety restrictions, praised the judge’s Friday ruling, writing in a statement issued by his office, “The CDC has been wrong all along, and they knew it.” 

“The CDC and the Biden Administration concocted a plan to sink the cruise industry, hiding behind bureaucratic delay and lawsuits,” he continued. “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.”

The Hill has reached out to the CDC for comment on Friday’s ruling.

Tags Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; CDC coronavirus order coronavirus pandemic coronavirus restrictions COVID-19 pandemic Cruise ship Florida Health and Human Services Ron DeSantis Ron DeSantis Sunshine State Xavier Becerra

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