Federal court upholds CDC cruise order in Florida

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T0712HORIZONMARDIGRAS_C_HR [Credit: Carnival Cruise Line]
The Carnival Horizon and Carnival Mardi Gras in PortMiami earlier this month. Photo Credit: Carnival Cruise Line

A federal appeals court ruled Saturday that the CDC can enforce its Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) in Florida, overturning a lower court ruling in June that would have made the CSO unenforceable after July 18.

Florida sued the CDC in April to overturn the CSO, which the state won in the lawsuit's first test when U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday granted a temporary injunction against the CDC. Gov. Ron DeSantis called it a "victory for Florida families."

The CDC appealed the ruling on July 6, saying that "undisputed evidence shows that unregulated cruise ship operations would exacerbate the spread of Covid-19 and that the harm to the public that would result from such operations cannot be undone."

Related story: Norwegian Cruise Line sues Florida over vax law

The three-judge panel on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Saturday, just before the deadline, by a 2-1 vote that the CDC had "made the requisite showing" and that "opinions will follow."

Many legal experts had predicted that the lower court ruling would not hold up on appeal. 

Charlie Papavizas, chair of maritime law practice for Winston & Strawn, said in June that the complaint did not "meet any legal standard. ... They would have to prevail on appeal. It's hard to imagine that they will." 

"What I know is that the federal government can regulate a foreign ship when it's in the U.S., and that's a tradition that goes back to the beginning of our country," he said.

Florida can appeal the order. DeSantis' office has yet to comment on the ruling.

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