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Judge's Decision In Florida-CDC Cruise Case Expected 'Soon'

A U.S. federal judge said he expects to make a decision “soon” after hearing arguments Thursday in Florida’s challenge to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s conditional sailing orders for cruise lines.

The state is suing the federal agency over the orders and is seeking a preliminary injunction lifting the CDC’s COVID-19 restrictions on cruise ships sailing from Florida ports. The industry, vital to Florida’s economy, has been shut down since March 2020 due to the pandemic.

Federal attorneys say an injunction isn't necessary because cruises are on track to resume voyages this summer through the conditional order.

The CDC has approved several cruise line requests for simulated voyages that involve testing ship operators’ ability to mitigate risks of the virus. Many revenue cruises have already been scheduled.

Another option for cruise lines is to require 95 percent of passengers be vaccinated against COVID. That has become an issue with a state order and signed legislation to ban businesses - including cruise companies - from requiring passengers to show proof of vaccination against COVID.

The state claims the CDC restrictions are overreaching and causing damage to the economy. And it says the test cruises are an expensive burden for the cruise lines and ports.

Judge Steven Merryday had sent both sides to mediation before Thursday’s hearing. During the session, he chided the state for issuing a comment that those talks had reached an “impasse” when it had not. Merryday warned that the mediation was confidential and promised to investigate further leaks. State attorneys said the issue was a misunderstanding.

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