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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is speaking out against the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) over its continued COVID-19 ban on the cruise ship industry operating in the United States.
The CDC currently requires cruise lines to “prohibit self-guided or independent exploration by passengers during port stops” and recommends “limit[ing] shore excursions in foreign ports of call to countries listed as Level 1: COVID-19 Low in CDC’s COVID-19 Travel Recommendations by Destination,” which ranks the United States as Level 4, or “Very High.” The Washington Post reports that the CDC has outlined a path by which the industry may be allowed to resume operating in the U.S. “by mid-July.”
DeSantis, who filed a lawsuit against the federal government over the issue in April, reiterated his critique last week.
The CDC has mothballed this for a year. They said it was going to be two weeks last March,” the governor said. “Now here we are a year later and there’s no end in sight. Now they say you can only cruise if you have 98% of people show proof of vaccination. But that’s ridiculous. They’re cruising in other parts of the world where they don’t even have availability of vaccines yet, where they have much higher COVID than in the United States.”
Those vaccination conditions, he noted, effectively mean that “families can’t cruise because the kids aren’t authorized yet, and even if this happens in emergency use, that’s for teens and not young kids.”
“With all due respect to the CDC, if you look at some of the stuff they’ve done on school openings, where they’re basically doing the teachers unions’ bidding, where they say these kids should be masked at summer camp outdoors, I’m sorry, that’s not science, that’s politics,” DeSantis said.
The CDC’s proclamations have left cruise line industry representatives frustrated, as well.
“I have to tell you that I am disappointed at the first read,” says Frank Del Rio, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line. “I think everybody has the same goal of getting the industry back in operation. We hope we’re reading it wrong, we hope that there would be clarification.”
The CDC suit is the latest in a string of conservative actions DeSantis has taken, including legislation banning left-wing critical race theory from public schools, forbidding “vaccine passports” that would coerce Floridians into taking a COVID-19 vaccine against their will, keeping gender-confused males out of girls’ athletic programs, increasing penalties for rioting, limiting social media giants’ power to deplatform their political enemies, and a new election integrity law.
Many conservatives view the governor as an early frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, thanks to his conservative record in office, his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic without intensive lockdowns, and his knack for parrying hostile media.
According to a Bloomberg report, “Cruise ships were an epidemiological nightmare during the early days of the pandemic — combining prolific international travel with line dancing, endless buffets, and indoor karaoke — and they’ve also been a disaster for the mental health of some of their crew. Separated from families, confined mostly to tiny cabins, with no obvious legal recourse and at times no pay, sailors experienced a more extreme version of the household lockdowns that have sent people tumbling into depression.”
“In addition to the estimated 100 or so passengers and crew who died of causes linked to Covid, there have been at least a half-dozen other fatalities among crew members who were trapped at sea. Most of these are suspected suicides.”