(9:45 p.m. EDT) -- The back-and-forth battle between the state of Florida and the CDC took another twist Friday when U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit vacated its previous order granting the CDC a stay of a lower court's decision.
On July 17, the same Circuit Court put a temporary hold on a federal judge’s decision that effectively would have stopped the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from enforcing its cruise ship health and safety protocols in Florida. The vote then was 2-1 in favor of the temporary hold.
From the beginning to the pandemic, the CDC has been involved in the cruise industry and its return. It first issued a "No-Sail Order" on March 14, 2020, a day after most cruise lines around the world voluntarily shut down. The agency issued an extension of that order in August, before replacing it with a Conditional Sail Order in November, which at the time did little to move forward the resumption of sailing.
As a result, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody filed a lawsuit against the CDC in April alongside Gov. Ron DeSantis, who at the time said, "The Federal government and the CDC has locked down this industry for over a year. This is not reasonable. This is not rational."
Then, in June, Federal Judge Steven Merryday denied the CDC's request to extend the Conditional Sail Order in Florida, emphatically ruling, "A stay that would serve to extend the unwarranted, unprecedented, and injurious exercise of governmental power by one person, the Director of CDC -- is DENIED."
The ruling from the Circuit Court on July 23 upholds Merryday's ruling. The Circuit Court, which ruled unanimously (3-0) to vacate the temporary stay, didn't provide a reason for doing so.
Confusing? It sure is.
The bottom line is that the impact of this ruling, at least for now, is unlikely to cause many changes for the cruise industry, where the cruise lines are far down the path of resumption under the CSO. That means, cruise lines are either requiring that 95 percent of passengers and 98 percent of crew are vaccinated, or they are undergoing simulated sailings prior to resumption so they can work through new health and safety protocols with volunteer guests.
So far, both paths seemed have produced positive results, with a handful of ships safely cruising from the United States for about a month, starting with Celebrity Edge, which sailed June 28 from Fort Lauderdale.