Even though COVID-19 cases are continuing to rise in Florida, U.S. courts have reversed course on cruise ship regulations, lifting CDC safety measures that were put in place to prevent the spread of the virus on ships.
In a ruling last Friday (July 23), judges for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta decided that the the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cannot impose COVID-19 health and safety rules on cruises sailing out of Florida-based ports this summer.
The ruling is viewed as a win for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has long argued that the CDC's multiple-step restart process in Florida is burdensome and harms an industry that provides some 159,000 jobs and millions of dollars in revenue for the state.
Previously, a temporary stay had kept CDC health and safety protocols for Florida-based cruise ships in place while the CDC appealed a June decision by U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday.
Those safety regulations “can no longer be enforced but can still be used as guidelines,” explains a report in the Associated Press.
The CDC has argued that its rules are meant to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks on ships and protect those who are vulnerable to the virus because of close living quarters and stops at foreign ports.
"The 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," the CDC said in a court filing.
But according to Merryday's decision, the CDC can't enforce health and safety rules on Florida-based ships. Rather, safety protocols should be considered non-binding recommendations or guidelines, Merryday determined.
From July 16 to July 23, Florida recorded 73,199 new COVID-19 cases, representing a more than 60 per cent increase from the previous week, based on data from Florida Health.
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