Florida cruise company drops COVID-19 safety protocols after legal battle

  • In Business
  • 2022-10-06 20:23:52Z
  • By WJAX

More than a year after a federal judge backed Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings in a constitutional challenge to Florida's ban on so-called "vaccine passports," the legal battle could be poised to end.

The Miami-based Norwegian said in filings this week in federal district court and an appellate court that it has lifted requirements that passengers show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 before boarding ships. As a result, it said the state's appeal in the case is moot and that a preliminary injunction should be scrapped.

U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams in August 2021 issued the preliminary injunction, blocking the state from enforcing its vaccine-passport ban against Norwegian. The state appealed Williams' ruling to the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where the issue has been pending.

"In light of these updated policies, NCLH (Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings) respectfully suggests that this appeal is likely moot," attorneys for the company wrote in a document filed Tuesday. "This is an appeal from a preliminary injunction against a statute that prohibits a business practice NCLH is no longer engaging in, for now, and in the foreseeable future. NCLH recognizes that it cannot claim relief from a statute that is not presently posing injury to NCLH."

Gov. Ron DeSantis last year made a priority of blocking businesses, including the cruise industry, from requiring proof of vaccinations from customers. He issued an executive order preventing the use of vaccine passports, and the Republican-controlled Legislature later passed a bill that put the ban into law.

Norwegian filed the lawsuit in July 2021, alleging that the law violated First Amendment rights and what is known as the dormant Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The cruise industry shut down in 2020 after high-profile outbreaks of COVID-19 and also grappled with federal Centers for Disease Control requirements about safely resuming operations.

In granting Norwegian's request for a preliminary injunction, Williams wrote that the state law was a "content-based restriction" on speech, as it targeted documentation but allowed businesses to request other information from customers about issues such as vaccinations.

"While companies cannot require customers to verify their vaccination status with 'documentation,' the statute does not prohibit businesses from verifying vaccination status in other ways (e.g., orally)," Williams wrote. "Accordingly, under (the law), businesses could still 'discriminate' against unvaccinated individuals by adopting a vaccination requirement, which they could enforce by requiring oral verification of vaccination status before entry or by deterring unvaccinated patrons from entering by putting up signs that read 'vaccinated customers only' and 'unvaccinated patrons are not allowed.'"

In appealing Williams' decision, the DeSantis administration disputed that the law violated the First Amendment.

"The law simply prohibits businesses from conditioning service on customers providing documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccination," state lawyers wrote in a brief. "Norwegian may still request that documentation from its customers, its customers may voluntarily provide it, and both parties are free to discuss the topic. What Norwegian may not do is deny service to customers who fail to provide that documentation."

In a news release Monday, Norwegian said it had "updated its global health and safety protocols by removing all COVID-19 testing, masking and vaccination requirements," with the change taking effect Tuesday.

"Health and safety are always our first priority; in fact, we were the health and safety leaders from the very start of the pandemic," Harry Sommer, president and chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line, said in a prepared statement. "Many travelers have been patiently waiting to take their long-awaited vacation at sea, and we cannot wait to celebrate their return."

[SIGN UP: Action News Jax Daily Headlines Newsletter]

Click here to download the free Action News Jax news and weather apps, click here to download the Action News Jax Now app for your smart TV and click here to stream Action News Jax live.


More Related News

Elon Musk Says He
Elon Musk Says He'd Back DeSantis in 2024 Presidential Race

Asked on Twitter Friday night if he would support Florida Republican governor Ron DeSantis in the 2024 presidential election, Elon Musk stated "Yes."

Newsom Told the White House He Won
Newsom Told the White House He Won't Challenge Biden

The would-be pursuer of Trump and DeSantis is "all in" for the president's reelection and willing to wait his turn.

Elon Musk Says He
Elon Musk Says He'd Back Trump Rival Ron DeSantis If He Runs For President

He wants someone "sensible and centrist," Musk claimed on Twitter. So why would he pick the Florida governor?

Musk says he will support DeSantis if Florida governor runs for president
Musk says he will support DeSantis if Florida governor runs for president

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Billionaire Elon Musk said on Friday he would support Ron DeSantis in 2024 if the Florida governor, who recently coasted to a second...

DeSantis faces hurdles despite 2024 momentum
DeSantis faces hurdles despite 2024 momentum

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is gaining steam on former President Trump in a would-be match-up for the Republican presidential nomination. But even Republicans ...

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply


Top News: Business