Norwegian Cruise Lines will be allowed to require all passengers get vaccinated before they’re allowed to depart from Florida, according to a federal judge’s ruling on a preliminary injunction Sunday. Norwegian sued the state last month over Florida’s ridiculous anti-vaccine law which says that private companies can’t require customers to be vaccinated against covid-19.
Norwegian hoped to restart operations in Florida on August 15 after a long hiatus, but was forced to sue the state after the Florida law was signed into law on May 3 by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Companies that ask about vaccination status face fines of $US5,000 ($6,799) per infringement, according to the Florida law. But Norwegian now has a pass to ask all potential customers and staff whether they’ve vaccinated and ban anyone who isn’t.
“The cruise line industry is a unique sector whose entire business model depends on operators’ abilities to traverse across various federal, state, local, and international jurisdictions in a matter of days and even hours — each with different laws, regulations, and protocols. At the same time, scientific research shows that cruise lines are hotbeds for COVID-19 transmission,” the court said in its ruling Sunday.
Florida has seen a horrifying surge in coronavirus cases over the past couple of weeks, with the state accounting for roughly 20% of the country’s covid-19 cases over the past week. Florida didn’t report covid-19 cases over the weekend but has currently has a seven-day average of roughly 19,000 cases per day based on Friday’s numbers.
The U.S. more broadly is averaging over 100,000 cases per day for the first time since February, with people who are unvaccinated among the most ill.
Just 49.6% of Florida’s population is fully vaccinated against covid-19, slightly below the national average of 50.7%. The U.S. is slipping in the international vaccination rankings, with the country currently ranked 28th in overall vaccinations around the world. The U.S. had the 18th best vaccination rate as recently as a few weeks ago.
“We are pleased that Judge Williams saw the facts, the law and the science as we did and granted the Company’s motion for preliminary injunction allowing us to operate cruises from Florida with 100% vaccinated guests and crew,” Daniel S. Farkas, executive vice president and general counsel of Norwegian Cruise Line said in a statement on Sunday.
“While litigation is a strategic tool of last resort, our Company has fought to do what we believe is right and in the best interest of the welfare of our guests, crew and communities we visit in an effort to do our part as responsible corporate citizens to minimise, to the greatest extent possible, further spread of COVID-19 as we gradually relaunch our vessels,” Farkas continued.
And while the preliminary injunction is a good sign that Norwegian’s arguments will prevail in court, it’s still a temporary measure before all of the merits are heard and decided upon. But thankfully for Norwegian, they’ll be allowed to resume operations as safely as possible now.
“The health and safety of our guests, crew and the communities we visit is our number one priority, today, tomorrow and forever. It’s not a slogan or a tagline, we fiercely mean it and our commitment to these principles is demonstrated by the lengths our Company has gone through to provide the safest possible cruise experience from Florida,” Frank Del Rio, president and chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., said in a statement on Sunday.
“We want nothing more than to sail from Miami, the Cruise Capital of the World, and from the other fabulous Florida ports and we welcome today’s ruling that allows us to sail with 100% fully vaccinated guests and crew which we believe is the safest and most prudent way to resume cruise operations amid this global pandemic,” Del Rio said.