U.S. Appeals Court Sides With CDC Over Florida, "Stays" Previous Ruling

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was successful over the weekend in its policy tug-of-war with the State of Florida about what’s appropriate on cruise ships sailing from the "Sunshine State" during this pandemic era.

In Tampa on Saturday, the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals voted 2-1 to “stay” a U.S. district court’s decision just minutes before that order would have gone into effect. In that lower court ruling—a preliminary injunction granted by Judge Steven Merryday—the CDC would have been stripped of its authority to set health/safety protocols as part of a required Conditional Sail Order (COS) framework. Instead, those would have been considered only as "guidelines."

In his ruling, Judge Merryday had said Florida would likely prevail in its view that the CDC was exceeding its authority with the COS. But with the weekend court of appeals decision—at least for now as the appeals case proceeds—the CDC will retain its legal authority to decide “yeah” or “nay” on any cruise line’s ability to sail.

The CDC has said in a court filing that undisputed evidence shows that "unregulated cruise ship operations would exacerbate the spread of COVID-19,” and that the harm to the public from that could not be undone.

The latest cruise line to operate a “simulated” sailing under the CDC’s rules and hoping to get that COS approval is Disney Cruise Line. On Saturday, volunteers (DCL employees) sailed from Port Canaveral, FL, on Disney Dream for a two-night "test" cruise.

The CDC was aboard to watch how the cruise unfolded and look at health/safety protocols. 

Florida has been at odds with the CDC for months in many ways. The state has a “no vaccine mandate” law for all Florida businesses serving the public. Separately, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings has filed a lawsuit against the state over that policy, as it desires all guests and crew to be vaccinated.

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