(12:15 p.m. EDT) -- In a major 11th hour win for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a federal appeals court put a temporary hold on a federal judge’s decision that would have blocked the agency from enforcing its COVID-19-related cruise ship health and safety protocols in Florida.
The 2-1 vote by a panel of 11th Circuit Court judges, which came late Saturday, is a blow to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who sued the agency arguing that the CDC has no authority to regulate cruises in the state. The judges did not file their opinions in the case.
Under the earlier ruling by Judge Steven Merryday in Tampa, the CDC’s health and safety protocols – as outline in the agency’s Conditional Sailing Order – were to shift July 18 from requirements to merely recommendations in Florida. Merryday had ruled that the CDC was "likely" overstepping its authority in issuing requirements for cruise ships.
For their part, the cruise lines have been carefully following CDC orders and have not gotten involved in the federal court proceedings. Vaccine and other rules set by companies such as Royal Caribbean International and Carnival Cruise Line remain in place.
Cruisers will not see any changes to upcoming sailings because of the ruling. Cruise lines that decide to sail with less than 95 percent of the passengers vaccinated – mostly kids – will still have to do test cruises.
Separately, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings is suing the state of Florida in federal court in Miami, asking a judge to block a state law that bars businesses from requiring that their customers be vaccinated. Norwegian has asked for a ruling in that case by August 6.