STATEWIDE — The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has asked a federal appeals court to intervene on its attempts to maintain a “conditional sailing order” on the U.S. cruise industry.

What You Need To Know

  • U.S. government goes to federal appeals court on ruling against conditional sailing order 

  • A U.S. judge had granted an injunction against the order, saying CDC overstepped bounds

  • District Judge Steven Merryday this week denied the CDC's request for a stay of his order

The CDC and the federal government appealed this week to the Atlanta-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

The CDC’s action follows a ruling last month from U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday, who granted an injunction against the federal agency’s order.

The conditional sailing order spells out phased guidelines on how the cruise industry can resume U.S.-based operations amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The agency took a step toward resuming U.S.-based cruises in May when it said cruise lines would be able to begin trial voyages in U.S. waters. And saying that it exceeded the CDC's requirement that 95% of passengers be vaccinated, Celebrity Edge late last month became, at reduced capacity, the first cruise ship to leave a U.S. port since the beginning of the pandemic.

Because it also had to comply with a Florida law that bans businesses from requiring customers to show proof of vaccination, the cruise line asked guests if they would like to share their vaccination status. Those who didn't faced additional restrictions.

The State of Florida sought the preliminary injunction against the conditional sailing order in an April lawsuit that argued the agency had overstepped its boundaries with rules that had kept the U.S. cruise industry docked.

Merryday ruled that beginning July 18, the “conditional sailing order and the measures promulgated under the conditional sailing order” would persist only as “a non-binding 'consideration,' 'recommendation' or 'guideline.’”

The U.S. government this week asked Merryday for a stay of his order, calling the CDC’s rules “an important tool in ensuring that cruise ship operations do not exacerbate the spread of dangerous variants during this inflection point in the pandemic.”

The U.S. motion contended that Merryday’s order created “a substantial risk that cruise ships will exacerbate the introduction and spread of the virus in the United States.”

It also declared that the conditional sailing order “lies well within the agency’s traditional statutory and regulatory authority, and Defendants respectfully submit that they are likely to prevail" on appeal.

Merryday on Wednesday denied the U.S. government’s request, maintaining that the CDC has “exercised authority not granted" by statue.

The judge wrote that the “CDC’s argument fails for the reasons elaborated in the preliminary injunction to show a likelihood of success on appeal, and CDC fails to demonstrate that denial of the stay will injure materially CDC or the United States, any third party, or the public.”