A federal appeals court has reapplied a court order ending the federal no sail rule for cruises, a win for Florida.
Last week, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals put on pause a district court judge’s ruling to end the no sail order. But late Friday, the appeals court ruled that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention failed to prove it had the jurisdiction to issue the no sail order in the first place.
The CDC issued that order, which required a percentage of cruise passengers to be vaccinated, to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic. But the order conflicted with a law signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis that prevented businesses, including cruise lines, from enforcing vaccination requirements.
U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday sided with the state of Florida by ruling the CDC was overstepping its boundaries with restrictions it placed on cruise ships to limit the spread of COVID-19. As a result of the ruling, large passenger ships started gearing up to set sail on Saturday.
U.S. Department of Justice attorneys representing the CDC had asked the appeals court to issue a stay, writing that Merryday’s preliminary injunction “rests on errors of law and is a clear abuse of the district court’s discretion.” It also argued the injunction will “exacerbate the spread of COVID-19.”
The state’s original lawsuit contends the CDC exceeded its authority with the restrictions and that the conditional sailing order is “arbitrary and capricious.” Also, it alleges the CDC violated the Administrative Procedure Act, which deals with how agencies impose regulations and carry out laws.
Department of Justice lawyers have countered by saying the federal government has long had authority to regulate ships to prevent the spread of communicable diseases.
Opposing the federal restrictions also has become a high-profile political issue for DeSantis, who frequently blasts the CDC for mothballing cruise ships during the pandemic. Following Merryday’s ruling, DeSantis credited himself for kicking off a national dialogue on CDC powers.