Florida/Ron DeSantis Hit With Federal Lawsuit Over COVID Vaccinations

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Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has been hit, albeit indirectly, with a federal lawsuit over an attempt by his administration to ban cruise lines from requiring Florida passengers to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19. Throughout the pandemic, the DeSantis administration has resisted calls for more strict action against the virus, casting their stance as some kind of valiant, pro-freedom maneuver, even as people died. Now. Norwegian Cruise Lines — which is aiming for a resumption of Florida-based cruises in August — has sued Florida state Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees.

In their lawsuit, the company — formally known as Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) — insisted that a single “anomalous, misguided intrusion threatens to spoil NCLH’s careful planning and force it to cancel or hobble upcoming cruises, thereby imperiling and impairing passengers’ experiences and inflicting irreparable harm of vast dimensions.” Specifically, the lawsuit is in response to a state law put into place in May that barred businesses in Florida from requiring proof of vaccination against COVID-19 from prospective customers ahead of service. Under that law, businesses who nevertheless attempt to require proofs of vaccination could be hit with fines of up to $5,000 per incident.

Notably, in the time since Norwegian Cruise Lines filed its lawsuit — which wasn’t that long ago — a federal appeals court has ruled in favor of leaving vaccination requirements in place for Florida cruise passengers. That ruling came as part of a different case in which the DeSantis administration sued the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) over their requirements for the restarting of cruises, which were halted during the pandemic. That appeals court — the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit — reversed a previous ruling from a lower court judge against the CDC rules. As the Department of Justice put it in a filing from shortly before the appeals court ruling in their favor, the “protocols at issue here require conventional communicable disease control measures on cruise ships traveling internationally, which is an area of traditional federal jurisdiction.”

DeSantis has faced similar pushback on other fronts. Laws enacted by his administration that impose new restrictions around voting and that put fines in place for social media companies that remove political candidates from their platforms have both been challenged in court. That latter law was recently blocked from going into effect by a federal judge, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle, who wrote that the “plaintiffs are likely to prevail on the merits of their claim that these statutes violate the First Amendment.” Thus, he issued a preliminary injunction against the rules, which Florida Republicans enacted after major social media companies blocked former President Trump from their sites following his incitement of the January riot at the Capitol.