'All of Florida is a hot spot'
A federal judge in Miami granted Norwegian Cruise Line a preliminary injunction Sunday night, at least temporarily blocking a Florida law that bans private companies from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination. U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams wrote in her ruling that Florida "fails to provide a valid evidentiary, factual, or legal predicate" for its "vaccine passport" ban. Under her ruling, the Norwegian Gem can now set sail from Miami on Aug. 15 with only demonstrably vaccinated passengers and crew.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) first issued an executive order banning companies from requiring proof of vaccination, then signed a law passed by the legislature that would fine cruise ships that required vaccination proof up to $5,000 per passenger. Norwegian filed suit to block the law in mid-July, after the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Florida against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's rules requiring that 95 percent of cruise ship passenger be vaccinated. While the appellate court considers the CDC's rules, they are considered guidelines rather than requirements.
Florida state attorney Pete Patterson argued in a hearing before Williams on Friday that Florida's law protects the civil liberties of cruise ship passengers. "You can't discriminate against customers on the basis of their refusal to give you information," he claimed. Norwegian's lawyer Derek Shaffer said Florida lawmakers were trying to "score political points" with their vaccine passport ban, and that Florida's "scary" COVID-19 outbreak makes the law especially reckless now. "All of Florida is a hot spot," he said. "All we're doing is trying to protect our staff and passengers."
Patterson suggested Florida would appeal an unfavorable ruling. Norwegian has said it might leave Florida entirely if the law stands.