A Florida judge refuses a CDC request to keep its COVID-19 vaccine rules for cruise ships, and says his decision is about the ‘use and misuse of governmental power’

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks behind a podium into microphones wearing a dark blue suit.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis sued the CDC in April over its strict rules for cruise ships.

  • A Florida judge blocked a CDC request to extend its COVID-19 restrictions for cruise ships.
  • CDC rules requiring 95% of travellers to be jabbed before sailing become nonbinding on July 18.
  • The District Judge said his decision was “about the use and misuse of governmental power.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A federal judge has blocked a request from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to maintain COVID-19 restrictions on Florida cruise ships.

Florida District Judge Steven Merryday said in the court filing on Wednesday that his decision was “not about what health precautions against COVID-19 are necessary or helpful” but “about the use and misuse of governmental power.”

The CDC had appealed an earlier ruling by Merryday in June that would turn strict CDC rules about cruise liners into nonbinding guidelines for Florida ships from July 18.

The legal battle started in April, when the state of Florida sued the CDC over its stringent rules for the cruise industry, called a Conditional Sailing Order (CSO), which the CDC introduced in October 2020. The CDC had “singled out” the industry, which “as a result, is on the brink of financial ruin,” the state said in the filing.

Under CSO rules added in May, cruise ships can only set sail normally when at least 95% of people on board, including the crew, are fully vaccinated. If not, ship operators must take volunteers on “test” cruises to show they can mitigate COVID-19 transmission.

Merryday said in Wednesday’s court order that the CDC’s “dark allusions” about the prospect of COVID-19 transmission on cruises ignored “state and local health authorities, the industry’s self-regulation, and the thorough and costly preparations and accommodations by all concerned to avoid ‘transmission’ and to confine and control the ‘transmission,’ if one occurs.”

The pandemic has hit the cruise industry hard since its outbreak last year. Cruise ship giant Carnival reported a $2.9 billion net loss in the third quarter of 2020, it said in an earnings filing.

The CDC issued a no-sail order in March 2020 after some ships served as incubators for the disease, resulting in passenger infections and deaths.

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