State Watch

DeSantis warns he’ll take legal fight against CDC’s COVID-19 cruise ship rules to Supreme Court if necessary


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said on Monday that his state will fight a recent court order that left in place Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) restrictions on cruise ships amid the coronavirus pandemic.

While addressing the recent ruling at a press conference, DeSantis said his administration is “absolutely going to pursue” its legal options, either in the same court that issued the new ruling or at the U.S. Supreme Court.

A panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to grant the temporary stay in a 2-1 decision late Saturday. The ruling occurred shortly before a previous order blocking the rules from Judge Steven Merryday of the Middle District of Florida was about to go in effect, Reuters reported.

The last-minute ruling arrived months after DeSantis announced the state’s lawsuit against the federal government, arguing that the CDC was overstepping its authority with sailing orders and health requirements for cruise ships.

Under the agency’s orders, cruise lines were required to adhere to a set of testing and safety measures before being able to take to the waters after a number of COVID-19 outbreaks were recorded on cruises last year.

In his comments in Poinciana, Fla., on Monday, DeSantis said he thinks the state will “probably” take its legal fight “to the full 11th Circuit en banc.”

“I think that most courts at this point have had their limit with the CDC issuing these dictates without a firm statutory basis. So I’m confident that we’d win on the merits at the full 11th Circuit,” he said. 

“Honestly, I’m confident we’d win at the U.S. Supreme Court,” the governor added, saying he thinks the ongoing legal battle is bigger than his state’s case.

“One of the reasons why we did it was not just it’s an important industry for our state. We’re committed to that, but it raises a bigger question,” DeSantis said. “Can you just have one agency and the government without Congress ever passing a law just basically shutting down an industry? Maybe you don’t care about the cruise industry, but next time, it might be your industry.”

DeSantis’s efforts, however, have been met with pushback not only from Biden administration officials but also within the cruise industry.

Earlier this month, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings brought a lawsuit against the state’s surgeon general over its ban on vaccine passports. The legal challenge, the company said, was a “last resort” effort to try to prevent the state from implementing the ban.

“One anomalous, misguided intrusion threatens to spoil N.C.L.H.’s careful planning and force it to cancel or hobble upcoming cruises, thereby imperiling and impairing passengers’ experiences and inflicting irreparable harm of vast dimensions,” the company said at the time. 

The editorial board of the Miami Herald, one of the largest newspapers in the state, also didn’t mince words in a scathing piece taking aim at the governor on Monday, calling his recent vow to continue the legal battle “a bad look” as COVID-19 infections surge in the state.

“Maybe DeSantis has been able to blot out those horrible days in 2020 when cruise ships with infected passengers were turned away from ports around the world as those on board suffered and died. Well, we haven’t,” the board wrote, calling it “even more maddening” considering that “cruise lines such as Norwegian actually agree with the rules.”

“The governor must have a funny definition of winning if it involves bringing more COVID to Florida. As for the CDC, well, it doesn’t sound to us as though the agency is the one issuing the dictates here,” it added.

Tags Coronavirus coronavirus restrictions cruise lines Cruise ship Florida Ron DeSantis
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