Officials from South Florida are calling on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to remove the no-sail order for cruise ships, a day after the state filed a lawsuit against the federal government to allow ships to begin sailing immediately.
Congresswoman María Elvira Salazar, Congressman Carlos Gimenez, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava and other officials held a news conference at Port Miami Friday to say they want cruises heading back out to sea with customers on board.
"No other industry is being held back by the federal government like the cruise line industry. Cruise lines should be allowed to operate if they have the proper safety protocols in place," Salazar said.
Officials said the no-sail order hurts the state and Miami-Dade as the industry generates billions for the economy and employs tens of thousands of Floridians.
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"We were the cruise capital of the world, we don't have any cruises coming out of this, so we're no longer the cruise capital of the world," Gimenez said. "We want to regain that status as the cruise capital of the world, get these ships going."
The CDC issued new guidelines last week for companies on how to respond in the event of COVID-19 cases but has so far not lifted its no-sail order.
The CDC shut down sailing last March when several coronavirus outbreaks were tied to ships worldwide, prompting ports to reject docking plans and leaving some passengers and crew members to navigate for an extended time.
"We cannot afford to lose this industry, and this is what unfortunately we're facing," Levine Cava said. "We're facing cruising happening from other places because we are dragging our feet, and when I say we, I don't mean we, that's somebody else that's telling us we're not ready or we don't have the plans, we have the plans and we are ready."
The news conference comes a day after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced at the port that the state was suing the federal government and CDC to allow ships to begin sailing immediately.
The lawsuit says the new guidance doesn't take into consideration another CDC statement made that fully vaccinated people can now travel at low risk to themselves. It also says the new rules increase the frequency of reports of COVID-19-like illnesses and require agreements be made between cruise companies and all U.S. ports and local health authorities where ships have to dock.
Florida is the nation’s cruise capital with three of the world’s busiest ports: Miami, Port Canaveral near Kennedy Space Center, and Port Everglades near Fort Lauderdale. The lawsuit says the industry generates billions for the state’s economy as millions of people typically cruise from one of Florida's ports each year.
DeSantis has maintained the ban disproportionally impacts Florida and has said that cruising has resumed in much of the world, forcing Americans to fly to other ports in the nearby Bahamas. Industry leaders say there have been no new outbreaks tied to their ships.