The recent tussle between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Florida over the state’s decision to quarantine an Ebola patient has raised some important questions about the proper role of federal agencies in handling contagious diseases.
For most cruising sailors, the decision to wear a life jacket is a fairly routine one, but in the 1980s a legal strategy began to emerge that would have significant impact on the lives of millions of boaters worldwide.
Earlier this week, Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) made a decision that could pay off politically, but it certainly won’t be good for the public health. Scott ordered state health officials to implement the CDC’s recommended quarantine restrictions on people from the Ebola-stricken nations of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. Scott’s order puts the quarantine on Floridians who were in the affected regions within 21 days of their travel, and the CDC recommends that people who have been there within 21 days from now be quarantined for up to 21 days.
The stay on a decision that would convert the CDC’s Conditional Sail Order to a suggestion hasn’t deterred Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. DeSantis responded this week by stating that if necessary, he is prepared to go to the Supreme Court.
The Governor’s primary concern with the CDC’s stringent regulations regulating the cruise industry is this: “Can one agency and the government, without Congress ever enacting a legislation, effectively shut down a business?”
Florida is not going down without a fight.
Although a recent stay by the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals on Florida’s US District Judge Steven Merryday’s Conditional Sail Order decision merely buys the appeals court more time to examine the issue, Governor DeSantis is prepared to fight any adverse verdict for the state.
During a news conference, the Governor said that he would be examining the legal options available to him and that he would pursue the case via the appeals court or possibly the US Supreme Court. As The Hill writes, he is sure that the state of Florida will win:
“I believe that most courts have reached their limit with the CDC issuing these directives without a solid legislative foundation at this time. So I’m sure we’d win on the merits in front of the whole 11th Circuit. To be honest, I think we’d win in the US Supreme Court.”
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Florida’s governor went on to say that he doesn’t believe the problem is limited to the cruise sector. Despite the fact that cruise lines are important to many people in Florida, DeSantis thinks the CDC’s Conditional Sail Order raises the issue of whether one agency can lawfully shut down an entire industry.
“One of the reasons why we did it was not just because it’s an important industry for our state. We’re committed to that, but it raises a bigger question. Can you just have one agency and the government without Congress ever passing a law just basically shutting down an industry? Maybe you don’t care about the cruise industry, but next time, it might be your industry.”
The court struggle comes at a moment when Florida seems to be caught between two worlds: on the one hand, it is battling the CDC over the CSO, and on the other side, it is experiencing resistance from cruise companies.
Not everyone is in agreement.
While most agree that the CDC delayed too long to allow the cruise industry to reopen, not everyone agrees that the CSO should be abolished. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings has filed a lawsuit against Florida’s state surgeon general, claiming that the state’s vaccine ban will make it unsafe for the cruise line to operate:
“One strange, foolish incursion threatens to derail NCLH’s meticulous preparation and compel it to cancel or stymie future voyages, jeopardizing and degrading passengers’ experiences and causing irreparable damage on a massive scale.”
Photo credit: Shutterstock.com/Felix Mizioznikov
The Governor is also receiving criticism from inside his state, one of which came from the Miami Herald earlier this week. When DeSantis pledged to oppose COVID measures aboard cruise ships, the newspaper said the governor had lost track of the events that occurred before the cruise ship ban went into force in March 2020:
“Perhaps DeSantis has been able to erase those dreadful days in 2020, when cruise ships carrying sick passengers were turned away from ports all around the globe, causing suffering and death to those on board. We haven’t, to be sure. If sending more COVID to Florida is a definition of victory, the Governor must have a strange definition. The CDC, on the other hand, does not seem to be the one giving the directives in this case.”
Whether or whether the Miami Herald is accurate in their assertions, the reality remains that cruise companies continue to operate from Miami despite the CSO, with Carnival Cruise Line even demanding passengers to be completely vaccinated aboard. As a result, it seems that Florida’s case against the CDC has shifted away from the cruise industry and toward a much broader problem.
The CDC has asked the Supreme Court to review an August 2016 federal court decision that would allow the CDC to require all cruise ships visiting Florida to vaccinate their passengers against measles, mumps, and rubella. But, Florida’s Governor Rick Scott has written a letter to the CDC, asking the agency to back off and allow for voluntary vaccination.. Read more about cdc florida and let us know what you think.
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