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U.S. Court of Appeals blocks decision that would have suspended the rules for CDC cruise ships

    Cruise ships are seen anchored in the port of Miami as the tourism industry is affected by the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Miami, Florida, USA, March 26, 2020. REUTERS / Carlos Barria

Cruise ships are seen anchored in the port of Miami as the tourism industry is affected by the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Miami, Florida, USA, March 26, 2020. REUTERS / Carlos Barria

WASHINGTON – A U.S. appeals court late Saturday in a 2-1 ruling overturned a lower court ruling that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) could not enforce its rules for coronavirus cruise ships in the state.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday, in connection with Republican-led Florida, found that the state would most likely show that the CDC exceeded its authority by adopting rules governing the resumption of cruise ship sailing.

The short order from the 11th Circuit panel came approx. 10 minutes before Merryday’s decision was due to take effect on Sunday, which would have made the CDC rules a non-binding recommendation rather than mandatory.

The CDC in May began approving some cruise operations after lengthy talks with the industry on health and safety protocols.

Its conditional sailing order said cruise ships that secured at least 95% of the passengers and nearly the entire crew were vaccinated could circumvent simulated voyages and go faster to resume commercial voyages.

The Ministry of Justice said last week in a submission to the Court of Appeal that “there is no basis for repealing COVID-19 health and safety protocols developed by (CDC) in collaboration with the cruise ship industry.”

The CDC declined to comment Sunday.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Attorney General Ashley Moody did not immediately comment Sunday. DeSantis had argued that the CDC rules violated “the freedom of the Floridians to make decisions for their families.

Florida, a major hub for cruise operators, said in April that its ports had suffered a drop in operating revenue of nearly $ 300 million since the pandemic began.

On Tuesday, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings sued the state of Florida, saying a state law prevented it from “safely and securely resuming passenger vessel operations” from Miami as of August 15. A judge has set a preliminary hearing on August 6.

Florida state law expressly prohibits cruise ships from requiring documentation for COVID-19 vaccines.

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