- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says he will appeal his case challenging mask mandates and other COVID-19 requirements on cruise ships to the Supreme Court, if necessary, after a federal appellate court ruled that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requirements can stay.

The Republican governor told reporters this week he will ask the full U.S. Circuit Court for the 11th Circuit to review a three-judge panel’s decision and even take the matter before the high court, as he hopes to strike down a number of CDC requirements for cruise ships to get back up and running after the industry was shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The state of Florida argued that the CDC’s 4-step phase as part of its “No Sail Order” is “unduly burdensome,” noting that cruises in Asia and Europe have been back in operation with more than 400,000 passengers. The state claims the CDC rules have caused increased unemployment and economic damage to the states’ ports.

“I think that most courts at this point have had their limit with the CDC issuing these dictates without a firm statutory basis,” Mr. DeSantis said. “So I’m confident that we’d win on the merits at the full 11th Circuit. And honestly, I’m confident we’d win at the U.S. Supreme Court.”

According to the U.S. District Court, out of 59 eligible cruise ships, only two have been given conditional sailing certificates.

The CDC issued multiple steps and requirements for the industry to get back on the water with passengers.

Some of those requirements include that 98% of the crew is vaccinated as well as 95% of the passengers. 

The CDC also requires all crew who are not vaccinated to wear masks. Passengers, likewise, are required to wear masks under the federal mask mandate.

The district court judge agreed with Florida that the CDC’s guidelines were too burdensome and issued an injunction halting the “No Sail Order.”

But on Saturday, the 11th Circuit panel reversed that move and lifted the injunction in a 2-1 ruling. The panel’s ruling has prompted the state to appeal either to the full 11th Circuit or to the Supreme Court.

The CDC argued in court papers that the state is ignoring that cruise ships and international travel fall within its regulatory authority.

“Florida disregards the threat to public health that would arise if cruise ship operators were at liberty to ignore the CDC guidance or to act without oversight from public-health authorities,” the CDC said in its court filing.

A spokesperson from the Justice Department declined to comment on the state’s planned appeal.

• Alex Swoyer can be reached at aswoyer@washingtontimes.com.

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