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Appeals court sides with CDC, Norwegian Cruise Lines over DeSantis on vaccination rules

Latest decision reverses lower court ruling.
Norwegian Cruise Lines had joined the federal government's appeal.
Norwegian Cruise Lines had joined the federal government's appeal. [ SUSAN STOCKER | South Florida Sun Sentinel ]
Published Jul. 18

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 guidelines for cruise lines returning to operation are rules, not suggestions, a federal appeals court ruled Saturday night, reversing a lower court decision in favor of the state of Florida.

The 2-1 decision by the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals judges was a win for the CDC and, by extension, Norwegian Cruise Lines, which filed an amicus brief in this case.

In a separate federal case, NCL has sued Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees for the right to require all passengers be vaccinated against COVID-19 once it restarts its Florida cruises Aug. 15.

Taking a loss — for now — is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. DeSantis sued the CDC in April, and, exactly a month ago, U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday granted a preliminary injunction that would’ve turned the CDC’s regulations into suggestions on Sunday.

“The CDC protocols at issue here require conventional communicable disease control measures on cruise ships traveling internationally, which is an area of traditional federal jurisdiction,” the U.S. Department of Justice stated in a letter filed Thursday to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

“For example, the technical guidance instructs cruise operators to inspect (test) passengers and crew for infection,” the letter continued, “to quarantine exposed persons who are potentially contagious and isolate persons found to be infected; to arrange for the safe disembarkation of such persons; and to take related sanitary measures such as mask wearing and physical distancing to prevent the spread of the virus.”