Judge Sides with Florida in Lawsuit Against CDC Over Cruise Guidelines, 2 Weeks to Change
A federal judge sided with Florida on Friday in a lawsuit against the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and their Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO).
U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday granted a preliminary injunction, beginning July 18, preventing the CDC from enforcing the CSO, which will be considered nonbinding recommendations or guidelines, the Associated Press reported. He also ordered both sides to return to mediation to reach a full solution after a previous mediation attempt failed.
"This order finds that Florida 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 CDC," Merryday wrote in a 124-page decision, which argued that Florida would suffer if the CSO was allowed to continue, as it effectively blocks most cruises.
Merryday gave the CDC until July 2 to propose new cruise ship guidelines "both permitting cruise ships to sail timely and remaining within CDC's authority."
"Florida establishes a strong likelihood that many or almost all cruise ships will remain unable to sail for the entire summer season," the ruling stated. "And each day the cruise industry faces uncertainty about when cruises can resume, Florida not only suffers a concrete economic injury resulting from reduced revenue and increased unemployment spending, but Florida faces an increasingly threatening and imminent prospect that the cruise industry will depart the state."
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis previously sued the CDC in April, attempting to resume the cruise industry's presence in the state, which is a big contributing factor to their economy.
"The CDC has been wrong all along, and they knew it," DeSantis claimed in a statement after Friday's ruling. "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."
DeSantis has faced backlash for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, banning businesses from requiring customers to show proof of vaccination. The legislation has forced some cruise lines to consider skipping Florida ports altogether.
"The health and safety of cruise passengers, crew, and the communities we visit remains the top priority for CLIA cruise line members, and cruise ships are well on their way to offering the traveling public a high level of COVID-19 mitigation," Laziza Lambert, spokeswoman for the Cruise Lines International Association, said in a statement, noting that the trade group is reviewing the ruling and what it means for U.S. cruises going forward.
RELATED VIDEO: Passenger Aboard First Cruise Ship to Return to Sailing in Caribbean Tests Positive for COVID-19
After flatly halting cruise ships from setting sail in March 2020 in response to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the CDC imposed their four-phase conditional framework in October.
"CDC is committed to working with the cruise industry and seaport partners to resume cruising following the phased approach outlined in the CSO," CDC spokesperson Caitlin Shockey told PEOPLE in a statement last month. "Over the past month, senior leadership from CDC have met multiple times a week with cruise line senior executives to discuss the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO). During these meetings, participants asked questions and discussed the fastest path back to sailing without compromising safety. CDC and the cruise industry agree that the industry has what it needs to move forward and no additional roadblocks exist for resuming sailing by mid-summer."