Mar 27, 2021 - Economy

Florida's DeSantis threatens lawsuit if CDC doesn't let cruises resume soon

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the opening of the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Hyatt Regency on February 26, 2021 in Orlando, Florida.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at February's Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is threatening to sue the federal government if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) doesn't allow cruises to restart by the summer.

Why it matters: Florida is at the heart of the U.S. cruise industry, with Miami, Port Everglades and Port Canaveral among the busiest ports in the world. Millions of passengers pass through in a typical year. It's worth billions of dollars for the state's economy, per AP.

Driving the news: DeSantis appeared alongside Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody (R) and the leaders of Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Disney and Norwegian cruise lines a Port Canaveral news conference Friday to make the case for lifting the no-sail order.

  • "They did the No-Sail Order in March of 2020 ... and it's never been really to the point where they're making an effort to really get it back," DeSantis said.
  • "This has a kind of ripple effect throughout all businesses," he said. "When they're sailing, there is more economic opportunity for people across a wide range of businesses. It affects a lot of jobs. What we need is a way forward."
"Is it OK for the government to idle an industry for a year with no end in sight?"
— DeSantis

For the record: The CDC implemented a no-sail order after COVID-19 cases spiked on cruise ships early in the pandemic.

  • Last October, the public health agency replaced its "no-sail" order on U.S. cruises with a less restrictive "Conditional Sailing Order," setting the stage for the phased resumption of passenger cruise line travel — which DeSantis criticized for being "totally unrealistic."
  • Moody said if a lawsuit were filed, it'd challenge this order as he said it's based on out-of-date medical information that's no longer valid.

Of note: University of Florida epidemiologist Cindy Prins told AP it's "too early" for cruises to resume, given the higher risk of the virus spreading among passengers mingling on ships for long periods.

  • She noted "testing and symptom screening are not perfect methods of prevention."
  • Prins added companies would have to limit passenger numbers, with crews required to show they're fully vaccinated in order to lower the risk of the virus spreading — something DeSantis opposes and no industry leader addressed at the news conference, AP notes.

The big picture: Florida became one of the world's epicenters for the virus last July, forcing DeSantis to pause the state's first round of reopening.

  • He fully lifted restrictions on restaurants last September, as part of a commitment to reopen the economy, saying "we're not closing anything going forward."
  • The state was averaging about 2,700 new daily cases at the time.
  • The CDC did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

By the numbers: Florida has confirmed over 5,000 cases a day since last Monday, including 5,688 on Friday, according to the state health department.

  • There had been at least 3,689 COVID-19 or coronavirus-like illness cases on cruise ships in U.S. waters, "in addition to at least 41 reported deaths," the CDC said last October.

Go deeper: Florida's pandemic response gets a second look from the national media

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