Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has already taken on big tech and foreign influencers, and now he is ready to add the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, threatening a lawsuit if the Biden administration does not permit cruises to restart by summer.
"They did the No-Sail Order in March of 2020," DeSantis said at a Friday news conference with Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, and leaders of Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Disney, and Norwegian cruise lines. "And it's never been really to the point where they're making an effort to really get it back."
"This has a kind of ripple effect throughout all businesses," he said. "When they're sailing, there is more economic opportunity for people across a wide range of businesses. It affects a lot of jobs. What we need is a way forward.
"Is it OK for the government to idle an industry for a year with no end in sight?"
Florida has a bustling cruise industry with Miami, Port Everglades, and Port Canaveral among the largest in the world. Millions cruise through them in a normal year and it has been worth billions for the state economy, Axios reported.
The "no-sail" order from last spring was changed to a "conditional sailing order" this October, but DeSantis called the latter "totally unrealistic." The CDC responded to the industry's effort this week by reaffirming its commitment to the framework, saying it will remain in effect through November.
"If there is one thing we've learned over the past year, it's that lockdowns don't work, and Floridians deserve the right to earn a living," Gov. DeSantis said. "The cruise industry is essential to our state’s economy and keeping it shut down until November would be devastating to the men and women who rely on the cruise lines to provide for themselves and their families. I urge the CDC to immediately rescind this baseless no-sail order to allow Floridians in this industry to get back to work."
AG Moody said the order is based on out-of-date medical information that is no longer valid, which would be the crux of the lawsuit.
"It's anchors aweigh for almost every travel industry in the U.S., yet the Biden administration is keeping our cruise liners docked — while many other major countries begin to operate cruises safely under health guidelines," Moody said. "The rationale for keeping U.S. cruises shuttered through the foreseeable future is based on outdated data and guidelines put in place before we had a COVID-19 vaccine.
"The federal government is acting outside its authority in singling out and docking the cruise industry while other tourism-based businesses continue to operate in accordance with health guidelines. This heavy-handed federal overreach is harming our nation’s economy and is especially damaging to Florida’s economy and our vital tourism industry. That is why, we are calling on the Biden administration to lift the outdated lockdown order on Florida’s cruise industry and allow workers who rely on this important industry to get back to work."
Some companies have begun to plan trips from the Caribbean, but no company has won approval yet through the CDC's process to sail in U.S. waters.
The industry association, CLIA, has said the companies need about 90 days to prepare to sail once they get the go-ahead, which is why they are trying to get clarity now so they can sail by July.
The CDC reported in October there were at least 3,689 COVID-19 or coronavirus-like illness cases on cruise ships in U.S. waters at least 41 reported deaths, according to Axios.
Information from Bloomberg was used in this report.
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