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Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Gem sits at the Port of Miami.
Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Gem sits at the Port of Miami. (Susan Stocker, South Florida Sun-Sentinel/TNS)

(Tribune News Service) — Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday vowed to seek — to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary — a reversal of a Saturday night court ruling that allows a federal health agency’s authority over the cruise industry to remain in place while the state pursues its lawsuit seeking to overturn that authority.

DeSantis said the state would seek to reverse an order issued late Saturday night by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta that prevented the lifting of restrictions on the cruise industry imposed in spring 2020 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The state of Florida, at DeSantis’ direction, sued the CDC in April, saying the agency’s cruise ban was causing harm to Florida’s economy and was unlawful because the CDC’s authority to impose a complicated set of health and safety rules on cruise ships operating from U.S. ports was not approved by Congress.

In June, U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday granted the state a preliminary injunction that would have stripped the CDC’s authority. The CDC appealed the injunction, which was to take effect on July 18.

Late Saturday night, a three-judge appellate court panel granted the CDC’s request to delay the injunction as the case moves forward. That 2-1 decision was issued just moments before the injunction was to take effect.

DeSantis on Monday said he was confident that the full 12-member appellate court or even the U.S. Supreme Court would side with the state and reimpose the injunction sidelining the CDC.

Meanwhile, several cruise lines have resumed operations from Florida while trying to adhere to the CDC’s resumption framework and avoid violating a state law that DeSantis spearheaded barring businesses from requiring customers to show proof of vaccination.

Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, which restarted voyages from Florida this month, are encouraging passengers to show proof that they have been vaccinated but, in adhering to the state law, are not requiring vaccinations. Instead, the cruise lines are requiring non-vacccinated guests to purchase travel insurance and follow mask wearing and social distancing rules not imposed on vaccinated guests.

Norwegian Cruise Line, by contrast, is refusing to back down from its requirement for fully vaccinated ships. The cruise line filed its own lawsuit last week challenging Florida’s ban on so-called vaccine passports and filed a brief supporting the CDC’s appeal of the injunction. Norwegian doesn’t plan to resume voyages from Florida until November.

In discussing the lawsuit while taking questions from reporters, DeSantis acknowledged that the lawsuit was not only about the cruise industry’s viability, but also an ideological challenge to the general idea that federal agencies can shut down businesses without legislative authority.

DeSantis is widely assumed to be considering running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.

“Can you just have one agency in the government, without Congress ever passing a law, just basically shutting down an industry?” DeSantis said. “Maybe you don’t care about the cruise industry. Next time it might be your industry. Next time it may affect people that you know, or people that depend on this for their livelihood. So I think it raises a lot of important implications.”

©2021 South Florida Sun Sentinel.

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