Appeals Court Suspends CDC Cruise Ship Order

File image courtesy Port Canaveral, FL

In yet another reversal for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”), a the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals court ruled last week that the CDC’s Conditional Sailing Order (“CSO”) will not be enforceable during the course of litigation recently filed by the State of Florida. It is the latest twist in a series of rulings that temoporarily blocked the CSO, then reinstated it, then blocked it again.

To help prevent COVID-19 outbreaks on board cruise ships, the CDC imposed the CSO in March 2020. As we all know, at that time the CDC was greatly concerned by the number of COVID outbreaks that have occurred on board cruise ships, as well as the number of COVID clusters on shore that were traced back to former cruise passengers. As a result, the CDC effectively halted all commercial cruising, citing the risk that the close confines of a cruise voyage increase the likelihood of infection on board, then distributing it to their home communities after they disembark. Now with vaccinations readily available, those worries have been abated somewhat, so the CDC created a dual path to allow cruise ships to gain permission to sail

In June, a U.S. District Court judge granted a temporary injunction that would prevent the CDC from enforcing the CSO on cruise ships operating from Florida’s ports. That is the ruling the State of Florida wanted. The judge ruled that, given the likelihood of success on the merits of its case, coupled with the likelihood of “irreparable injury” to the state, Judge Steven Merryday issued an order enjoining the CDC from enforcing the CSO in Florida, beginning July 18.

The CDC appealed Judge Merryday’s ruling to the Eleventh Circuit , arguing that the CSO is helping to ensure an orderly restart to cruising and addressing the potential for a resurgence of the virus. The CDC argued that it needed to manage the risks associated with the confined spaces aboard cruise ships and the likely exposure to new variants of the virus during the ships’ various port calls.

We at the Herd Law Firm have represented cruise ship passengers and seafarers for decades. We want the cruise ships to be back in business soon, but we want them to PRACTIVE SAFETY when they do so!

The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit issued a temporary stay, blocking Judge Merryday’s injunction and permitting the CDC to continue enforcing the CSO. Less than a week later, however, the same Court of Appeals ruled that CDC had not established an entitlement to lift the stay pending appeal. That new decision means that the injunction is in force and the CSO is an unenforceable advisory paper, at least until the litigation is concluded.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis responded to the news as follows: “ I’m glad to see the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals reverse its prior decision and free the cruise lines from unlawful CDC mandates, which effectively mothballed the industry for more than a year. The importance of this case extends beyond the cruise industry. From here on out, a federal bureau will be on thin legal and constitutional ice if and when it attempts to exercise such sweeping authority that is not explicitly delineated by law.”

In a response statement from the CDC, it noted that if cruise lines choose to ignore the rules detailed in the CSO, the CDC will enforce its mask requirements for public transit on board their cruise ships. The CDC earlier had issued an order that requiring face masks to be worn by all travelers while on public transportation, including all passengers and crew on vessels transiting in or out of the United States. Per the CDC guidelines, masks also are required while indoors at all U.S. transportation hubs, including seaports and ferry terminals. The CDC earlier had stated it would waive enforcement of its mask rule for vessels that participate in the CSO return-to-sailing plan.

We at the Herd Law Firm have represented cruise ship passengers and seafarers for decades. We want the cruise ships to be back in business soon, but we want them to PRACTIVE SAFETY when they do so!

Let’s Discuss Your Case

If you or someone that you know has contracted COVID-19 while on board a cruise ship, you may be entitled to compensation. If so, call the law offices of the Herd Law Firm, PLLC for a risk-free evaluation of your potential case.

Call 713-955-3699 now!

We Are Here To Answer Your Questions