Sunday, November 28, 2021

Florida appeals ruling allowing cruise to use ‘vaccine passports’

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(Reuters) – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said on Monday the state will appeal a federal judge’s ruling that allowed Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd to require Miami passengers show documented proof they are vaccinated against COVID-19, which he has called discriminatory.

In a preliminary ruling issued on Sunday, U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams in Miami said Norwegian would likely prevail on its argument that the “vaccine passport” ban jeopardizes public health and unconstitutionally infringes on Norwegian’s rights.

The law went into effect on July 1 and essentially codified an executive order that DeSantis signed in April.

“We disagree with the judge’s legal reasoning and will be appealing to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals,” said a statement from the governor’s office. “A prohibition on vaccine passports does not even implicate, let alone violate, anyone’s speech rights, and it furthers the substantial, local interest of preventing discrimination among customers based on private health information.”

Norwegian has said Florida’s law would prevent the company from ensuring at least 95% of passengers were vaccinated so it could comply with health regulations when it conducts its voyage from Miami on Aug. 15.

DeSantis has become a national figure for opposing pandemic restrictions, even as the Republican governor’s state has become a hotbed of infections https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-covid-19-cases-hit-six-month-high-over-100000-reuters-tally-2021-08-05 and hospitalizations have hit record levels.

The judge said Florida failed to demonstrate that the law was implemented in response to real problems facing Florida residents. She also found the law improperly burdened Norwegian’s right to freely communicate with its passengers.

The ruling comes as big business and some government entities are responding to the rapid spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus with vaccination requirements, prompting legal challenges from vaccine skeptics and civil libertarians.

(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Del., and Jan Wolfe in Washington; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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