In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis signed a new law that will take effect on January 1, 2020, requiring cruise ships entering or leaving a Florida port to maintain a current passenger vaccination record. The law aims to ensure that there is adequate documentation that all passengers have received the vaccines required to enter Florida. The law will likely affect cruise lines that regularly return to the state, such as Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean.
A bill that would ban cruise ships from Florida if they fail to enforce mandatory vaccines for international travelers sailed through the Florida House of Representatives. House Bill 1397 passed through the House Health Quality Subcommittee on Monday, and is now headed to the full committee. The goal of the legislation is to protect the public from the spread of infectious diseases by requiring cruise ships to have vaccines for the 10 most common infectious diseases. The bill, if passed, would give the Florida Department of Health an additional tool to protect public health by requiring mandatory vaccination of all crew, staff, and passengers on a passenger vessel that enters or remains in Florida waters. The bill also requires the cruise ship companies to make information available to passengers at least 30 days before the ship arrives in Florida
One of the strongest proponents of a cruise industry revival could potentially put a damper on the cruise industry. This week, Governor Rick DeSantis announced the signing of legislation that would prohibit cruise lines from requiring vaccinations for their customers.
The law will be confusing to the three major cruise lines, which sided with DeSantis against the CDC’s conditional sailing ban. Could this bill encourage cruise lines that follow the 95% / 98% mandate to defect to other states?
DeSantis’ order reads: Florida businesses are prohibited from requiring visitors or customers to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination or recovery in order to gain access to the business, enter the business, or provide services there. The law will enter into force on 1 January 2011. July 2021 in effect.
This means that the cruise lines cannot check whether customers have been vaccinated and therefore cannot clear the ships of vaccines. Requirement to bypass the specified test series in the conditional start order.
In an interview with Fox News a few weeks ago, DeSantis commented on the bill he signed:
I am a big believer in reopening our cruise lines. This is actually another area where we are suing the Biden administration because they shut down the cruise lines for a year and we think they should be able to sail.
However, we also do not believe that they should have the right to request your personal health information in this context.
Photo Credits: JA Markt Media / Shutterstock.com
Of course, that doesn’t mean the end of the road for all ships leaving Florida. The CDC has found that cruise lines can outperform test cruises if they sail with a 98%/95% vaccination rate among crew and passengers.
If cruise lines decide they don’t want to impose mandatory vaccinations on board, they should follow the CSO’s recommendations and test cruises.
At this stage, ships are allowed to sail but must meet strict testing and social distance requirements. Michael Bailey, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises, confirmed this during an earnings conference last week. It says the following:
There will be two options. A pathway for vaccinated crew members and predominantly vaccinated guests who meet the threshold established by the CDC. And this means that it will not be necessary to simulate the journey. And vessels that do not meet that threshold, for whatever reason, are subject to different timetables and different protocols and regulations.
According to several opponents and travel industry experts, the law opens the door to several legal challenges that could result in a challenge to the First Amendment. The bill strips cruise lines of the ability to control their right to deal with unvaccinated people, who are not a protected class under the law.
It’s worth a read: Crew members are starting to get vaccinated as the cruise industry prepares for the return of the bird flu epidemic.
This could certainly lead to problems with various maritime laws, as cruise lines could be accused of failing to protect crew members or passengers on board their ships. Omari Hardy, a Democrat from West Palm Beach, said the same thing last week during a debate in the Florida House of Representatives:
I don’t know many people who go on a cruise without making sure that the other people going with them and in their immediate vicinity are also vaccinated.
Whether DeSantis will apply the law to cruise lines is another question to be answered. The cruise ship in port is subject to local jurisdiction; however, it is an open question whether that jurisdiction lies with the CDC or the state government.
Also read : CLIA encourages and considers further details on cruises from the CDC
Of course, maybe DeSantis will decide that Florida’s 450,000 employees should go back to work and make sure the law doesn’t apply to cruise lines. This will allow the cruise industry to decide whether a vaccination requirement and an accelerated return are necessary. Cruise lines can also take the second route by organising test cruises and intensive tests on board their ships.
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