DeSantis posture hurts cruise lines and passengers

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When will Florida Governor Ron DeSantis start helping the cruise industry and its customers instead of his presidential campaign?

Last weekend, a panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a trial judge’s ruling against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC had published rules designed to help cruise passengers get back to business safely after the pandemic slowed them down in March 2020.

The CDC was acting on behalf of the industry, even though companies complained that the agency was moving too slowly. But at DeSantis’ request, the state took legal action, accusing the CDC of going too far. U.S. District Court Judge Steven Merryday has ruled for Florida and said as of last Sunday, the CDC’s rules should only be recommendations. Then the appeals court sided with the CDC and kept the rules in place.

In its dossier, the CDC said: “The undisputed evidence shows that unregulated cruise ship operations would exacerbate the spread of COVID-19 and that the harm to the public that would result from such operations cannot be reversed. ”

The damage caused by a massive outbreak on board ships would not end with the public. It would deal a Titanic-sized blow to the industry’s security-based marketing campaign.

On June 26, the Celebrity Edge departed Port Everglades. It was the first cruise ship to carry paying passengers since the start of the pandemic. Many of the passengers wore T-shirts that read “Vaccinated and ready to go on a cruise”.

Exactly. The vast majority of cruisers favor CDC rules. Ships can perform tests below capacity to prove their COVID-19 protocols are working, or they can upgrade to full navigation if 95% of passengers and 98% of crew are vaccinated.

This second rule, however, conflicts with Florida’s ban on “vaccination passports” that the legislature passed after DeSantis issued an executive order. No business, educational institution, or government agency in Florida may deny service or entry to unvaccinated individuals.

Florida is home to the three busiest cruise ports in the world. Each company faces a potential fine of $ 5,000 per passenger if it requests proof of vaccination.

Do cruise lines agree with DeSantis? No. No company joined the state lawsuit. All of them have worked with the CDC to develop the return to sailing advice.

Seabourn, Carnival’s luxury brand, operates Caribbean cruises from Barbados. This country allows Seabourn to follow the 95/98 rule.

Norwegian Cruise Lines has sued the state, seeking to overturn the ban on vaccination passports. The lawsuit correctly calls state law a “misguided intrusion” into the industry’s collaboration with the CDC.

A responsible governor has reportedly tried to advocate with the CDC on behalf of the cruise line. But DeSantis – like his boss, Donald Trump – is a frivolous politician whose priority is publicity.

The lawsuit appealed to the Republican anti-science and anti-vaxx base. DeSantis wants those votes when he runs for president, assuming he is re-elected as governor next year.

For now, however, DeSantis should think more about Florida and the cruise line employees and contractors who would like to return to work. As with many aspects of the pandemic, the economic health of the cruise industry depends on public health.

At the moment, DeSantis’ recklessness is doing the industry a disservice as it seeks to attract business here. Florida leads the country in new cases of COVID-19, in large part because the state is ranked 25th poor in the total fully vaccinated population.

On Monday, DeSantis blamed unnamed “quotes, not quotes,” experts “for creating public resistance to the vaccine. He claimed they were providing “misinformation and a lot of bad advice.”

In fact, these “experts” were generally right. At first, Dr Anthony Fauci and others advised against wearing masks, wanting to prioritize healthcare workers for the limited supply of PPE.

Soon after, however, “experts” called for masking and social distancing. They correctly predicted the second and third flare-ups after governors like DeSantis ignored public health advice. The “experts” correctly predicted that vaccine resistance could prolong the pandemic.

Now, those same “experts” are correct that the vaccination requirements are good for cruise lines. Businesses agree.

Carnival, one of Port Everglades’ two largest operators, will require all unvaccinated Florida passengers aged 12 and over to provide proof of travel insurance. It must cover at least $ 10,000 in medical expenses per person and $ 30,000 for emergency medical evacuation. No COVID-19 exceptions are allowed.

The rules come into effect on July 31, and Carnival plans to resume shipping on August 15. Additionally, passengers must pay for COVID-19 testing for all members of their travel party, regardless of age. If passengers do not have insurance, they cannot board and they will not be reimbursed.

Royal Caribbean, the other major cruise operator in Port Everglades, shares the same ideas. Unvaccinated passengers 12 years of age and older must have at least $ 25,000 and $ 50,000 in coverage.

DeSantis has vowed to take his fight to the United States Supreme Court. Enough already. Stop the posturing, Governor. Drop the trial. Let businesses require vaccinations. Give cruise passengers the kind of help they want.

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The Sun Sentinel Editorial Board is made up of Associate Editorial Page Editor Dan Sweeney, Editorial Editor Steve Bousquet and Editor-in-Chief Julie Anderson. Editorials are the opinion of the Board and written by one of its members or a designate. To contact us, send an email to letters@sun-sentinel.com.

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