Appeals court reverses course, lifts CDC cruise COVID-19 safety rulesJuly 25, 2021
Three judges on the U.S. Appeals Court for the 11th Circuit on Friday vacated their decision issued last weekend that allowed the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to enforce its cruise COVID-19 safety rules in Florida.
Just before the 11th Circuit’s reversal, Florida asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene and reverse the appeals court’s decision from last Saturday.
The 11th Circuit judges — Judges Jill Pryor, Charles Wilson and Elizabeth Branch — did not provide an explanation for why they reversed their decision just six days after issuing it, saying only that the federal agency “failed to demonstrate an entitlement to a stay pending appeal.”
“Today, following Florida’s application to the United States Supreme Court, we were excited to see the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals reverse its prior order and free the cruise lines from the unlawful CDC mandates,” Taryn Fenske, spokesperson for Gov. Ron DeSantis, said in an email. “The cruise industry is free to safely set sail again!”
Cruises restarted from Florida ports under the Centers for Disease Control’s regulations last month. Friday’s decision does not impact cruises that leave from other states.
In a statement Friday night, the Centers for Disease Control said ships operating out of Florida will still be required to report illnesses and deaths to the agency. If ships choose not to follow the COVID-19 regulations, now recommendations, the agency will label them “gray” on its color-coding system and they will be required to abide by the federal mask mandate for public transportation.
“CDC remains committed to working with the cruise industry and seaport partners to ensure that the resumption of cruise ship passenger operations are conducted in a way that protects crew members, passengers, and port personnel, particularly with emerging COVID-19 variants of concern,” said agency spokesperson Caitlin Shockey in a statement.
Larry Gostin, professor of global health law at Georgetown University and director of the World Health Organization’s center on global health law, said the reversal lacks transparency. Gostin previously said Florida’s lawsuit against the federal agency had little to no viability.
“The facts and the law today are exactly the same as the facts and the law several days ago,” said Gostin. “Judges are supposed to make decisions based on the facts and the law. They’re acting like their decision doesn’t matter, and this is a highly consequential case that is a life or death situation.”
Florida first sued the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in April, asking a federal judge in Tampa to get rid of the agency’s safety rules for cruises operating from Florida ports. The rules require cruise companies to have COVID-19 tests on board, secure evacuation agreements with ports they plan to visit and perform test cruises if they are…