Appeals court sides with CDC on COVID-19 rules for cruise ships

A U.S. appeals court has issued an order temporarily blocking a ruling from a federal judge in Florida last month that barred the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from enforcing coronavirus-era sailing orders.

A panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 to grant the temporary stay shortly before the previous order by Judge Steven Merryday of the Middle District of Florida was scheduled to take hold on Sunday, Reuters reports.

The ruling comes months after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisFlorida coronavirus cases jump 50 percent in one week Overnight Health Care: CDC details Massachusetts outbreak that sparked mask update | White House says national vaccine mandate 'not under consideration at this time' Publix will require employees to wear masks MORE (R) announced the state’s lawsuit against the federal government, arguing the CDC was overstepping its authority with sailing orders and health requirements for cruise lines. 

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

In Merryday’s ruling siding with Florida on the matter last month, the judge said the state “is highly likely to prevail on the merits of the claim that CDC’s conditional sailing order and the implementing orders exceed the authority delegated” to the agency.

“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,” he wrote in the order, which DeSantis later praised. 

“In a word, never has CDC implemented measures as extensive, disabling, and exclusive as those under review in this action,” the judge also wrote. 

But the Department of Justice pushed back on the matter in a filing to the appeals court last week, Reuters noted.

The department reportedly said in the filing that “there is no basis to lift the COVID-19 health and safety protocols that were developed by (CDC) in collaboration with the cruise ship industry.”

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In its ruling late Saturday granting the federal government its motion to stay the previous order, the court said the appellants “made the requisite showing” and that its opinions pertaining to the ruling will soon follow.

In a statement on Monday morning, DeSantis's press secretary, Christina Pushaw, knocked the recent ruling and said it will "continue the CDC’s unlawful stronghold on an entire industry—costing Florida and its tourism industry hundreds of millions of dollars."

"While we remain confident in eventual success on the actual merits of this litigation, we are considering options for immediate appeal to reinstate the trial court’s injunction that enjoined the CDC’s No Sail Orders as unconstitutional and lacking congressional authority," Pushaw added.

--Updated on July 19 at 12:11 p.m.