Florida asks U.S. Supreme Court to curb CDC restrictions on cruises

  • The state of Florida on Friday asked the Supreme Court to curb restrictions on cruises imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention days after a lower court handed down a decision leaving those restrictions in place.
  • The rules have hampered the cruise industry from fully returning to business amid the nation's vaccine-driven recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Early in the public health crisis, cruise lines were subject to a number of high-profile outbreaks. The industry was among the hardest hit by the pandemic.

The state of Florida on Friday asked the Supreme Court to curb restrictions on cruises imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention days after a lower court handed down a decision leaving those limits in place.

The rules have hampered the cruise industry from returning fully to business amid the nation's vaccine-driven recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. Early in the public health crisis, cruise lines were subject to a number of high-profile outbreaks. The industry was among the hardest hit by the coronavirus.

A federal district court in Florida sided with the state last month in response to a lawsuit filed by Ashley Moody, the Republican attorney general. On Monday, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily halted that decision, allowing the CDC rules to remain in place for now.

Shares of cruise liners Carnival Cruises, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line each fell further than the broader market following the release of the 11th Circuit decision.

Moody brought the case to the Supreme Court in an emergency filing, asking the top court to reverse the appeals court's decision.

"The CDC's Order is manifestly beyond its authority, as the district court correctly concluded in preliminarily enjoining it," Moody wrote in the filing.

Moody said that the CDC's rules amount to an "an ever-changing array of requirements" that are posted to the agency's website.

In addition, she wrote, the CDC rules require cruise lines to "establish COVID-19 testing laboratories, run self-funded experiments called 'test voyages,' and comply with social-distancing requirements throughout ships, including in outdoor areas like swimming pools and while waiting in line for the bathroom."

Moody wrote that only five ships out of 65 subject to the CDC's cruise rules had been approved to sail at the time the 11th Circuit issued its ruling. She wrote in the filing that the restrictions on cruises have cost Florida tens of millions of dollars in tax and port revenues. Without further action, the restrictions are set to remain in place until November 2021.

The CDC did not immediately return a request for comment.

The litigation comes as the nation is seeing a rise in Covid-19 cases, largely among individuals who have not been vaccinated, attributed to the highly transmissible delta variant.

Moody said Wednesday that she had contracted Covid-19 despite receiving a vaccine. In a post on Twitter on Friday, Moody said she was still experiencing mild symptoms and encouraged people to get vaccinated.

The filing was submitted to Justice Clarence Thomas, who oversees emergency requests from Florida, though it will likely be considered by the full court. The top court has a 6-3 majority of Republican-appointed justices.

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