A federal judge has temporarily blocked a Florida law that prevents cruise lines from requiring passengers to prove they’re vaccinated against COVID-19, saying the law appears unconstitutional and won’t likely hold up in court.
The Republican governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, put a “vaccine passport” ban into law in May, but it appears to violate the First Amendment rights of Norwegian Cruise Lines, an international cruise line. Writ by U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams.
Norwegian Cruise Line Can Require Florida Passengers to Show Proof of Covid Vaccination
Late Sunday night, the judge released a nearly 60-page order in which he or she ruled that Florida had not “provided a viable evidential, factual, or legal basis” for prohibiting the need for passengers to show proof that they had been vaccinated.
To remove the mandate would put the public’s health at risk, as evidenced by Norwegian, and might lead to “super-spreader” occurrences at any airport where people get off the plane, she wrote.
Florida separately sued the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attempting to stop federal cruise ship immunisation regulations. After the CDC’s appeal was denied, the agency made its rules voluntary rather than mandatory, and all Florida-based cruise companies agreed to continue following them, the judge ruled.
The judge pointed out that the CDC’s existing guidelines, which are in force until November 1, allow cruise lines to sail again if they can prove that 95% or more of their passengers and personnel have been vaccinated.
Florida’s Department of Health and Surgeon General Scott Rivkees have Filed a Lawsuit.
Previously, state’s attorney Pete Patterson stated that the law’s goal is to avoid invasions of privacy and discrimination against travellers who don’t get vaccinated.
State will appeal Williams’ ruling, DeSantis spokeswoman Christina Pushaw said. “A prohibition on vaccine passports does not even implicate, let alone violate, anyone’s speech rights, and it furthers the substantial, local interest of preventing discrimination among customers based on private health information,” the statement said.
The pandemic has cost Norwegian more than $6 billion to date by forcing the company to dock its entire 28-vessel fleet and send nearly 30,000 crew members home. Each cancelled seven-day voyage would cost the company another $4 million, the judge noted.
On Sunday, the Norwegian Gem will set sail from Miami, marking the line’s first trip out of the Sunshine State since the pandemic grounded ships. The judge pointed out that more than 1,200 individuals have already booked tickets, promising to verify they’ve been vaccinated before boarding.
Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Frank Del Rio stated, “We want nothing more than to sail from Miami, the Cruise Capital of the World, and from the other beautiful Florida ports.”
We feel that resuming cruise operations with 100% fully vaccinated guests and crew is the safest and most practical way to do so in the midst of this global pandemic, and we therefore applaud today’s verdict that allows us to do so.
Norwegian has stated that it will have to cancel all trips departing from Florida or allow unvaccinated passengers on board if it is unable to uphold its vaccination policy there.
The judge pointed out that the cruise industry is predicated on the fact that ships can move freely between different jurisdictions—federal, state, local, and international—in a matter of days or even hours, despite the fact that these jurisdictions have vastly different legal requirements and customs.
Vaccination Certificates are Required
Vaccination certificates are sometimes required to visit some foreign ports such as those in Belize, the Bahamas, the British Virgin Islands, and Honduras without being subjected to a quarantine or testing.
It is “not only impracticable, but also monetarily, legally, and logistically onerous” for cruise lines to comply without documentation proof of immunizations because the landscape of policies is changing so dramatically and frequently, especially as the delta variety becomes more popular.
Some cruise lines now require onerous on-board COVID tests and banish unvaccinated passengers from on-ship activities and ports of call; the ruling says this constitutes discrimination and a violation of medical privacy, despite the fact that the Florida law threatens fines of up to $5,000 per violation.
The judge pointed out that in order to protect the privacy of their unvaccinated passengers, Royal Caribbean makes a hole in their pass and seats them in a separate area of the main dining room.