A federal judge will hear arguments Thursday in Florida’s bid to block federal restrictions on cruise ships during the COVID-19 pandemic, while U.S. Department of Justice attorneys point to a return to cruising by mid-summer.
U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday will hold a hearing in Tampa on Florida’s request for a preliminary injunction against restrictions imposed by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The hearing will come after the two sides reached an impasse in mediation aimed at settling the dispute.
The hearing also will come after the industry giant Royal Caribbean announced Friday that it plans to begin sailing from Florida ports in July and August.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, filed the lawsuit in April challenging restrictions imposed by the CDC that idled the industry after outbreaks aboard ships early in the pandemic in 2020. The lawsuit focuses heavily on a “conditional sailing order” that the CDC initially issued in October with a phased approach to resuming cruise-ship operations.
But U.S. Department of Justice attorneys filed a brief Monday that said, in part, recent developments “further undermine” the state’s arguments that an injunction is needed. Those developments include the CDC approving simulated voyages that involve testing cruise-ship operators’ ability to mitigate risks of the virus.
“Cruising is on track to resume by mid-summer, and Florida cannot establish an irreparable injury that would occur in the absence of an injunction,” the