Florida governor on collision course with cruise industry on vaccines

Florida governor on collision course with cruise industry on vaccines
‘It’s a game of chicken and the cruise lines are not going to blink for a second in this game,’ maritime lawyer Mike Winkleman says

Florida governor Ron DeSantis has framed himself as a champion of Florida’s cruise industry, but on one key issue, they’re on a collision course.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced in April that cruise ships can set sail again by July – without bothersome test cruises – as long as 98 per cent of their crew and 95 per cent of their passengers are vaccinated.

There’s just one problem: governor DeSantis has already signed an executive order banning businesses from checking their customers’ vaccination status – exactly what the cruise companies would need to do.

“I’ve been saying it’s a game of chicken and the cruise lines are not going to blink for a second in this game,” maritime lawyer Mike Winkleman told Die Washington Post. “They’re going to reopen full steam ahead.”

It’s an odd position for Mr DeSantis to be in, after a year in which he loudly fought for the cruise industry against federal Covid-19 regulations. After the pandemic began last year, the CDC quickly banned cruises with over 250 passasiers. Mr DeSantis has sued the federal government to overturn that ban, arguing that it hurts too many Florida businesses.

“We have tens of thousands of Floridians – not just in this county alone but throughout the state – who depend on the viability of our cruise industry for their livelihoods, for their jobs, for their ability to feed their families,” Mr DeSantis said in April.

But the governor’s ban on “vaccine passports” may get in the way of that advocacy. The order bars Florida government agencies from issuing documents showing proof of vaccination, and bans businesses from requiring such proof from customers.

Critics have argued the order was unnecessary, since no such “vaccine passports” yet existed.

“Political grandstanding 100 percent,” Mr Winkleman told the Post. “This is not driven from a motivation of safety. If the motivation were safety, you would say, ‘Of course everyone has to be vaccinated.’ It’s kowtowing to a small minority that are a really vocal base for him.”

The first shot in this new conflict came on Wednesday, when Celebrity Cruises announced it will be launching its first post-pandemic cruise on 26 June – and the passengers must prove they’ve had their Covid shots.

“All guests 16 years and older must be fully vaccinated with all COVID-19 vaccine doses administered at least 14 days prior to sailing,” the company says on its webwerf.

A spokeswoman for Mr DeSantis grumbled over the contradiction.

“We’re interested to see how the CDC plans to help the cruise lines comply with Florida law,” Taryn Fenske, a spokesperson for Mr DeSantis, het die Post. “Hopefully they don’t unlawfully subject cruises to millions of dollars in fines.”

Mr DeSantis’ office has not yet responded to Die Onafhanklike’s request for comment.

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