US. Senators battling CDC for cruise restart

A group of U.S. congressmen, supported by members of the cruise and tourism industries, are fighting back against the ongoing restrictions against cruising issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Tuesday, April 13, U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), and Rick Scott (R-FL) introduced the Careful Resumption Under Improved Safety Enhancements (CRUISE) Act.

     Congresswoman María Elvira Salazar (R-FL) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The cruise shutdowns have been particularly hard on the states of Florida and Alaska.

According to the statement released by the three Senators, the CRUISE Act would revoke the CDC’s current Conditional Sail Order on cruises and require the CDC to provide COVID-19 mitigation guidance for cruise lines to resume safe domestic operations by July 4, 2021.

It also establishes an interagency working group to develop recommendations to facilitate the resumption of cruising no later than July 4. The U.S. cruise industry has been shut down since March 2020.

The CRUISE Act also “ensures that the Department of Health and Human Services, and the CDC retain all appropriate authorities to make and enforce regulations necessary to prevent the introduction, transmission, or spread of communicable diseases on any individual cruise ship.”

In March, the Senators sent a letter to the White House COVID Response Coordinator, urging the Biden Administration to immediately issue clear guidance for the resumption of operations for the cruise industry, but has not yet received a response or a timeline for safely resuming operations, which is urgently needed, they say.

Uncertain future and foot-dragging

     The Senators put forth a number of arguments for resumption of cruising:

      “Floridians and many other Americans who are employed by ports, cruise operators, or work in hospitality jobs near cruise terminals face an uncertain future because of the CDC’s unresponsiveness to requests for guidance by stake-holder groups,” said Rubio. 

 “Unlike the airlines, rail, and other modes of transportation—and all other sectors of the hospitality industry for that matter—the cruise lines have been denied clear direction from the CDC on how to resume operations,” Sullivan added. 

“… The foot-dragging, mixed messages, and unresponsiveness of CDC leaders is totally unacceptable and ultimately endangering the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Americans and the hundreds of small businesses across Alaska that rely on the tourism sector,” he went on.

“My legislation with Senators Scott and Rubio will accomplish what letters, meetings, and repeated phone calls have not—directing the CDC to finally codify timely guidance and a plan for cruise ships to safely and responsibly welcome passengers again this summer.”

 “Florida is a tourism state with thousands of jobs relying on the success of our ports, cruise lines and maritime industries,” said Scott. 

“While many sectors of the economy have been safely operating for months under CDC guidelines, Floridians, and those across the nation that rely on the cruise industry for work, continue to wait for updated guidance from the CDC.

“The CDC’s refusal to properly address this shutdown is wrong and it’s time to get the cruise lines open safely. Our bill, the CRUISE Act, says we’re not waiting on the CDC any longer. Cruises can and should resume, and we’re going to do everything we can to bring back our cruise industry safely.”

Florida Governor threatens to sue CDC

Last week, Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis said the state would sue the U.S. federal government and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, demanding that cruises be allowed immediately.

The governor said that he was fighting on behalf of tens of thousands of Floridians impacted by the shutdown during a PortMiami news conference. DeSantis noted the that people are going to cruise, and if not from Florida, then it would be from one of the new offshore options becoming available, such as The Bahamas, or St. Maarten.