A federal judge on Friday sided with the state of Florida's lawsuit against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), saying that the government agency likely exceeded its authority by issuing a Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) preventing cruise lines from sailing from Florida ports.
Judge Steven Merryday issued the state a preliminary injunction against the restrictions and guidelines of the CSO, which include such mandates as taking test cruises and implementing vaccine requirements for passengers.
"This order finds that Florida is highly likely to prevail on the merits of the claim that CDC's conditional sailing order and the implementing orders exceed the authority delegated to CDC," Merryday wrote in concluding the 124-page ruling.
Cruise lines could begin operating in and out of ports in Florida - the most lucrative in the world - as early as next month under the ruling.
Industry observers cautioned that the ruling is just a temporary injunction.
The judge wrote that the CDC has until July 2 to propose new guidelines "both permitting cruise ships to sail timely (while) remaining within CDC's authority."
The state had filed suit against the CDC in April.
"Today, we are securing this victory for Florida families, for the cruise industry, and for every state that wants to preserve its rights in the face of unprecedented federal overreach," Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a statement.
Merryday wrote that the state of Florida established a strong likelihood that many, or almost all, cruise ships will remain unable to sail for the entire summer season.
"And each day the cruise industry faces uncertainty about when cruises can resume, Florida not only suffers a concrete economic injury resulting from reduced revenue and increased unemployment spending, but Florida faces an increasingly threatening and imminent prospect that the cruise industry will depart the state," the ruling said.
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