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Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis filed a lawsuit last month against the CDC, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Biden administration in an effort to get cruises sailing again out of Florida. Cruises in the U.S. have been banned since mid-March 2020 after COVID-19 outbreaks and deaths on multiple ships.

This week, a federal judge in Tampa sent lawyers for the State of Florida and the CDC to mediation on the issue of whether cruises must comply with federal rules before setting sail. Both sides have until June 1 to mediate.

DeSantis filed the lawsuits in April, arguing that its rules unfairly target the cruise industry and asked the court to declare its framework to restart cruises — known as the “conditional sailing order (CSO)” — unlawful by issuing a preliminary injunction.

Currently, the cruise lines are in the second phase of the conditional sail order after having successfully completed the first phase earlier this year by increasing COVID-19 testing capacity on their ships and reporting weekly crew member test results to the agency.

Cruise companies are negotiating agreements with ports and local health authorities in the U.S. cities they plan to visit when cruises resume. Once the agreements are in place, cruise ships can begin sailing out of U.S. ports if they can verify that 95 percent of passengers and 98 percent of crew members have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

If a ship does not meet the vaccination requirement, it will have to first operate test cruises with volunteers to make sure other virus prevention protocols are working. The CDC has said that it is possible companies can restart cruises in July, depending on how quickly they meet the agency’s requirements.

Source: Tampa Bay Times

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