Aug 8, 2021 - Health

Judge: Norwegian Cruise Line can require vaccine passports in Florida

A docked Norwegian Gem cruise ship is seen at the Port of Miami in Miami Beach, Florida on April 14, 2021

The Norwegian Gem, a Jewel-class cruise ship of Norwegian Cruise Line, docked at the Port of Miami, Miami Beach, Florida in April 14. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

A federal judge in Miami granted Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings a preliminary injunction on Sunday night in its lawsuit challenging Florida's vaccine passports ban.

Why it matters: Per a statement from Norwegian, U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams' order will allow the cruise line giant to "operate in the safest way possible with 100% vaccination of all guests and crew when sailing from Florida ports."

  • Its Norwegian Gem ship is due to depart Miami on Aug. 15 — marking the company's first trip from Florida since the pandemic halted cruise industry operations last year.
  • U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams' decision is a blow for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) — who signed a bill in May prohibiting businesses from requiring customers show proof that they've received COVID-19 vaccines, saying getting inoculated should be a "personal choice."
  • Florida's ban came into effect on July 1 and Norwegian faced a fine of up to $5,000 for every violation.

What they're saying: Williams wrote in her order that she reached the decision because Florida had failed to "provide a valid evidentiary, factual, or legal predicate" for the ban.

  • Williams also noted "scientific research shows that cruise lines are hotbeds for COVID-19 transmission" and that Norwegian "has demonstrated that public health will be jeopardized if it is required to suspend its vaccination requirement."

The big picture: Coronavirus hospitalizations and cases are surging across Florida. DeSantis has blamed the spike on a "seasonal pattern" and "media hysteria."

  • In a separate case, Florida's attorney general has asked the Supreme Court to block the CDC's protocols requiring cruise lines to meet specific conditions before setting sail again.

What to watch: Peter Patterson, representing Florida and state Surgeon General Scott Rivkees at a court hearing on Friday, indicated that the state may take the Norwegian case to the U.S. Supreme Court, Politico notes.

  • The Florida Department of Health and the Florida governor's office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Read Williams' order, first obtained by Politico, in full via DocumentCloud:

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