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Florida AG Prevails Against CDC Over COVID-19-Related Framework for Resumption of Cruise Industry

  • Florida AG Ashley Moody obtained a preliminary injunction from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”), which prevents the CDC from enforcing its October 30, 2020 “Framework for Conditional Sailing and Initial Phase COVID-19 Testing Requirements for Protection of Crew” (“Framework”)—part of a phased resumption of cruise ship passenger operations in U.S. waters—against a cruise ship arriving in, within, or departing from a port in Florida.
  • As previously reported, the complaint alleged, among other things, that the four-phased Framework, effective until November 1, 2021, imposed onerous requirements on cruise ships prior to allowing them to sail in U.S. waters. The complaint argued that the Framework was arbitrary and capricious because it singled out the cruise industry for heightened safety measures even though airlines, hotels, and other tourism industries were allowed to open with reasonable safety measures. In addition, the complaint alleged that the CDC exceeded its authority in issuing the Framework and that it did not reassess the Framework in view of new developments such as the rollout of the vaccination program.
  • In its order, the court found that Florida is highly likely to prevail on the merits of its claim that the Framework exceeds the authority delegated to the CDC, or alternatively that the Framework likely constitutes an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power to the CDC because the delegation fails to convey any “intelligible principle” to guide the CDC’s exercise of authority, among other things. The order converts the binding Framework to a non-binding guideline, which has the same level of authority as CDC’s communications to other industries in the hospitality, transport, and entertainment sectors.