Court Blocks Lifting of Pandemic Rules for Florida Cruise Ships

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U.S. requirements for preventing the spread of the coronavirus on Florida-based cruise ships must remain in place after a federal appeals court blocked a previous ruling that allowed the state to avoid the regulations.

A panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted 2-1 to stay a decision issued last month that barred the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from imposing strict pandemic protocols on cruise lines. The ruling, which was issued late Saturday, comes as pockets of the U.S. are seeing a surge of coronavirus cases from new variants of the disease.

The state of Florida sued the CDC for imposing the safety rules on the cruise industry, which has been crippled since March 2020 when a series of outbreaks at sea led to an outright suspension of sailing with passengers. The state had won a temporary freeze on the regulations when the U.S. district judge sided with it when issuing a preliminary injunction against the federal rules.

The CDC set a strict protocol for cruise lines, with guidelines on masks and other matters. Before they can sail again, the lines must ensure that 95% of passengers and crew are vaccinated or run “simulated voyages” to prove the safety of their vessels.

When Florida sued the CDC in April, cruise lines seemed to be at an impasse with the agency, complaining they had been singled out for the strictest treatment even as other tourism and hospitality businesses returned to a semblance of their pre-pandemic activities.

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