FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has criticized the federal government’s continuing pandemic ban on cruise ships using U.S. ports, threatening on Friday to file a lawsuit if one of the state’s largest tourism sectors does not. may resume operations soon. .
Appearing in Port Canaveral with leaders from the Carnival, Norwegian, Disney and Royal Caribbean cruise lines, DeSantis and Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said they are exploring the state’s legal options if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not allow US-based cruises to resume. in summer.
The state is the cruise capital of the country with three of the world’s busiest ports: Miami, Port Canaveral near the Kennedy Space Center, and Port Everglades near Fort Lauderdale. Typically, millions of people travel from Florida each year, and the industry generates billions for the state’s economy.
DeSantis said the continued ban is only hurting Florida with no effect on the pandemic, as cruise ships are resuming in other parts of the world and Americans are flying to the nearby Bahamas to board ships.
“Is it okay for the government to idle an industry for a year?” said the Republican governor. He said people must now decide for themselves what they are willing to risk.
The CDC shut down the cruise industry a year ago when several coronavirus outbreaks were linked to ships around the world. DeSantis and industry leaders argued Friday that with widespread testing and vaccines increasingly available, the danger is now no worse than air and train travel, which are open. Shipping has resumed with restrictions and protocols in much of the world and industry leaders say there have been no new outbreaks linked to their ships.
The CDC did not immediately respond to an email on Friday seeking comment. In October it issued guidelines requiring cruise ships to take mock voyages to test procedures and have test labs on board before passengers are allowed in, but no further guidelines have been issued, leaving the ban in place.
Cindy Prins, an epidemiologist at the University of Florida, defended the ban, saying it is still too early for cruise ships to operate. Unlike other modes of transportation, families and groups on cruise ships mingle and dine together for extended periods, increasing the likelihood of spread, he said, and testing and detecting symptoms are not perfect prevention methods.
He said cruise lines would have to limit passengers and crew to those who can show they are fully vaccinated to prevent the spread of the virus. No industry leader suggested Friday that it would be a requirement if they resume operations in the United States, and DeSantis voiced opposition to requiring vaccination to participate in the economy.
Moody, also a Republican, said that if a lawsuit is filed, he would challenge the ban as based on medical information that is outdated and no longer valid.
“When you have a government that works against the interests and vitality of the citizens it serves, that is a problem. And historically, you can see how that leads to the demise and destruction of those they are trying to rule, ”Moody said.
More than 8 million passengers traveled from Florida in 2019, the last full year before the pandemic. The International Association of Cruise Lines estimates that the industry creates 150,000 jobs in the state, including dependent jobs in hotels, restaurants and airlines, which generate nearly $ 8 billion in wages. Most of that has been removed.
Industry leaders who appeared with DeSantis and Moody complained that little movement has been made in the U.S. toward reopening, even though cruises have resumed in the Caribbean, Europe, the Mediterranean, Australia, and Asia.
“Let’s get people back to work. The health situation has changed, ”said Thomas Mazloum, president of Disney Cruise Line. “Cruise lines are sailing outside of the United States with great success, which shows that with the right protocols, sailing is a very safe and beautiful experience.”
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