Florida gov. DeSantis declares victory as federal judge slaps down CDC ‘overreach’ on Covid-19 cruise ship rules

Cruise ships may soon operate out of Florida once again, as Governor Ron DeSantis notched a court victory against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in an epic injunction order blasting the “authoritarian” agency.

US District Judge Steven Douglas Merryday on Friday granted Florida’s request to block the CDC “conditional sailing” order against cruise lines. The injunction won’t go into effect until July 18, however, at which point the CDC orders to cruise operators will be considered non-binding considerations, recommendations or guidelines.

“The CDC has been wrong all along, and they knew it,” said the Republican governor, announcing the decision. “The CDC and the Biden Administration concocted a plan to sink the cruise industry, hiding behind bureaucratic delay and lawsuits. Today, we are securing this victory for Florida families, for the cruise industry, and for every state that wants to preserve its rights in the face of unprecedented federal overreach.”

Florida sued the CDC for irreparable harm after some cruise lines threatened to leave the state due to the onerous and burdensome conditions imposed in October 2020 and renewed in April. Among other things, the CDC required cruise operators to build testing laboratories on board, re-do the ship ventilations systems, and have at least 98% of the crew and 95% of the passengers – including children – vaccinated in order to bypass a requirement for simulated cruises first.

Merryday’s exhaustive 124-page ruling seemed to be designed to withstand Supreme Court scrutiny, referencing multiple justices, circuit precedents, case and statutory law, and even history of the CDC and quarantines. He zeroed in on the CDC’s understanding of its authority, however, pointing out that its lawyers repeatedly defined an “outbreak” as even a single instance of human-to-human virus transmission.

By doing so, the CDC claims authority to impose nationwide any measure whatsoever, based only on its director’s discretionary finding of “necessity,” wrote Merryday, calling it “a breathtaking, unprecedented, and acutely and singularly authoritarian claim.”

“One is left to wonder,” the judge wrote, whether the CDC could have tried to “generally shut down sexual intercourse” in the US to prevent the transmission of AIDS, syphilis or herpes. “Political prudence (and difficulty of enforcement) might counsel CDC against this particular prohibition, but the statute, as understood by CDC, certainly erects no barrier,” he noted – then proceeded to reject that understanding.

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Merryday’s drubbing of the CDC authority even cited the May ruling by his colleague in DC, Judge Dabney L. Friedrich, which clocked in at only 20 or so pages but disputed the agency’s right to impose a nationwide moratorium on eviction of delinquent renters.

More than 13 million cruise passengers and crew embarked or disembarked in Florida in 2019, patronizing the state’s economy. The cruise industry’s return will be “an important milestone in the fight for freedom,” DeSantis added, pointing out that Florida “continues to thrive while open for business.”

Under DeSantis, Florida has led the way in relaxing Covid-19 restrictions. He has even publicly regretted implementing any lockdowns in the first place.

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