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Judge Sends Florida’s Cruise Suit Against CDC To Mediator

Cruise ship at  Port Tampa Bay
WUSF
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Recently, the CDC said it would allow cruises sail again if 98% of the crew and 95% of passengers are vaccinated and ships take other measures to limit the risk of transmitting the virus.

Mediators are typically summoned in the hopes of coaxing both sides into settling their differences outside the court.

Cruise lines, their customers, the state and the CDC will have to wait to learn whether a federal order keeping ships in port can stand.

A federal judge overseeing the state’s civil case against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention referred the matter to a mediator Tuesday with instructions to hear the positions of both sides before June 1.

Mediators are typically summoned in the hopes of coaxing both sides into settling their differences outside the court.

Last Wednesday, lawyers representing the state and federal government made arguments before U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday.

The state claims a CDC conditional sail order for cruise lines to resume sailings is “unlawful,” taking too long and creating widespread economic harm.

Since the end of October, the cruise industry has been under the conditional sail order, which outlines a phased approach to resuming operations in U.S. waters.

In response, Florida file a lawsuit April 8 in U.S. District Court in Tampa, claiming the CDC’s guidelines for cruise ships are “arbitrary and capricious,” unconstitutional, and violate federal laws governing administrative procedures.

The lawsuit names CDC Director Rochelle Walensky and her agency, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, and the Biden administration as defendants.

Two weeks later, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody filed an injunction asking the court to immediately overturn the conditional sail order.

On Thursday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said it was a "great hearing," and that the state "got our points across."

"We are challenging the CDC's authority to do what they're doing,” DeSantis said. “They mothballed the industry for over a year."

Recently, the CDC said it would allow cruises sail again if 98% of the crew and 95% of passengers are vaccinated and ships take other measures to limit the risk of transmitting the virus.

“The major … cruise lines have been operating in other parts of the world where there's no access to vaccine, much less the passengers required. And in areas where COVID is more prevalent than it is in the United States right now," DeSantis said.

Information from David Lyons of the South Florida Sun Sentinel was used in this report.