Norwegian Can Require Vaccination Proof for Florida Cruises, Judge Rules

The latest in this whiplash game of Battleship

Federal Judge In Florida Allows Cruise Lines' Covid Vaccination Requirements
Joe Raedle / Getty Images

There’s been a new move in the ongoing game of Battleship being played over in Florida regarding cruise ships and proof of immunization—and this time, it’s a direct hit for Florida governor Ron DeSantis. 

Late Sunday, a federal judge in Miami ruled DeSantis’ state law prohibiting businesses to ask for vaccine proof in exchange for services was unconstitutional. In this specific case, Norwegian Cruise Lines argued that banning the ability to require vaccine proof was a public health risk and could cause super-spreader events on the ships—scenarios we’ve become all too familiar with since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In May, DeSantis made it illegal for businesses to choose whether or not to ask for proof of vaccination, arguing it violates medical privacy laws and promotes prejudice against those who are unvaccinated. Judge Kathleen Williams disagreed, though noted that DeSantis’ law did seem a lot like a violation of Norwegian Cruise Line’s First Amendment rights.

However, the hit wasn’t enough to sink DeSantis’ battleship—it’s only a temporary injunction against his law. But it’s still a huge win for Norwegian, who put forth strong arguments that the lack of an injunction would face “irreparably injure” in terms of money and reputation. Conversely, the State of Florida could not show how it would be harmed if the injunction was issued.

DeSantis has made headlines repeatedly throughout the pandemic for his controversial approach to COVID-19 protocol and laws. The governor has challenged mask mandates and—within 24 hours of the first day of school in Florida—announced that any public school officials who enforce a mask mandate in their schools might have their salaries withheld.

While we’re a few weeks away from seeing the effectiveness of mask mandates in schools, we have already seen proof that the new CDC cruise guidelines and onboard and port protocols are working. Even though there have been reported COVID-19 cases onboard recent sailings around the world (even those with vaccination requirements), we’ve yet to hear about any positive-case sailings that have turned into super-spreader (or even just somewhat-spreader) events. 

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