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Appeals Court Allows CDC To Enforce Rules On Florida Cruises

Sam Greenwood
Getty Images
A federal judge had ruled that beginning Sunday the CDC's orders were to become "recommendations," similar to "guidelines" the agency offered other industries like airlines, hotels, sports venues, and public transportation. Saturday's late-night appeals court ruling put that on hold.

The temporary stay by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals keeps in place the CDC regulations while the agency appeals a Tampa federal judge's June ruling.

Federal pandemic restrictions on Florida-based cruise ships will remain in place after a federal appeals court temporarily blocked a previous ruling that sided with a Florida lawsuit challenging the regulations.

The one-paragraph decision by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was filed at 11:50 p.m. Saturday, minutes before a federal judge’s previous injunction on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention restrictions was to take effect.

The temporary stay keeps the CDC regulations in place while the agency appeals the June decision of Tampa-based U.S. District Judge Stephen Merryday.

The ruling did not explain the reasons for approving the stay but indicated that detailed opinions will be released. The ruling said one judge dissented but did not identify that judge. The panel is made up of Judges Charles Wilson, Jill Pryor and Elizabeth Branch.

The Florida lawsuit claims the CDC’s multiple-step process to allow cruising is overly burdensome. The rules also conflict with a new state law that bans businesses from mandating proof of COVID-19 vaccination from customers.

Previously, Merryday granted Florida a preliminary injunction pending further legal action on a broader state lawsuit. Merryday concluded the CDC restrictions were likely unconstitutional and overstepped legal authority.

Merryday had ruled that beginning Sunday, the CDC's orders were to become "recommendations," similar to "guidelines" the agency offered other industries like airlines, hotels, sports venues, and public transportation. The appeals court ruling late Saturday put that on hold.

Wilson was appointed to the court by former President Bill Clinton; Pryor was appointed by former President Barack Obama; and Branch was appointed by former President Donald Trump.

Merryday has served as a district judge since 1991, after being appointed by former President George H.W. Bush.

Information from the Associated Press, Health News Florida's Mark Schreiner and News Service Florida's Jim Saunders was used in this report.

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Originally founded in December 2006 as an independent grassroots publication dedicated to coverage of health issues in Florida, Health News Florida was acquired by WUSF Public Media in September 2012.