TAMPA, Fla. — New developments were made Thursday in federal court in Florida’s lawsuit over the CDC’s Conditional Sailing Order for cruise lines.
Both the State of Florida and the CDC were back in federal court in Tampa for another injunction hearing with Judge Steven Merryday.
The hearing started with Judge Merryday calling out the state for making incorrect public statements about mediation. Last week, the Governor’s Office made comments that an impasse had been declared.
Judge Merryday said that is not true, and that mediation is ongoing. He asked the state how the incorrect statement was made, and how things got released to the public from within mediation. The state’s attorney said he believed it was a misunderstanding. Judge Merryday then made it clear that both sides have a right to confidentiality, and that if it happens again, he will investigate.
The hearing then continued with the state’s argument that the CDC’s Conditional Sailing Order oversteps their bounds.
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One of the state’s main arguments was the CDC’s requirement of 95 percent vaccinations in order to avoid simulated cruises is not in line with President Biden’s goal of having 70 percent of adults vaccinated in order to reach herd immunity.
The state also disagrees with the CDC’s definition of “outbreak” on board a cruise ship.
The CDC defines “outbreak” onboard a cruise ship as a 1.5 percent positivity rate onboard. The state argued that that percent positivity rate is much lower than on land, and is therefore not fair to the cruise lines.
On the other hand, the CDC says they have been working with the cruise line industry, and they claim the cruise line reopening is going “smoothly” and “as expected.” They argue they’re trying to help mitigate outbreaks on cruise ships and protect the public from possible outbreaks.
The CDC also says that requiring 95 percent vaccinations on cruise ships is based on internal CDC models which use current transmission rates.
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The CEO of the Canaveral Port Authority was inside the hearing. He says even though cruise lines are already making plans to get back up and running, this lawsuit plays an important part in the speed.
“The case itself has driven the process along a little fast than it otherwise would’ve transpired. I’m not so sure the CDC would be working as quickly as they are right now to get the industry back online,” said Captain John Murray.
Murray also said Port Canaveral has four cruise lines that have all submitted their Conditional Sail Orders paperwork, and that the CDC has approved them. He says they’ll be taking the simulated voyage route, in order to allow more children onboard.
“We’re a Central Florida cruise port, and our market is the Orlando market and children and the folks that go to the theme parks, and all of our ships that are gonna be sailing out of Port Canaveral are gonna be sailing on the simulated voyages first, and then ultimately phasing in, none of them will reach that 95 percent criteria that the CDC has put out there to avoid the simulated sailings,” said Capt. Murray.
Judge Merryday did not give a timeline on a ruling. He said both sides helped answer his questions, and that he wanted to make sure he makes the right decision. He said he hopes to make that decision “soon.”