Federal judge says Norwegian Cruise Line can require vaccine passports in Florida

A federal judge in Miami granted Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings a preliminary injunction on Sunday night in its lawsuit challenging Florida’s vaccine passports ban.

Why it matters: Per a statement from Norwegian, U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams’ order will allow the cruise line giant to “operate in the safest way possible with 100% vaccination of all guests and crew when sailing from Florida ports.”

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The Norwegian Gem is due to depart Miami on Aug. 15 — marking the company’s first trip from Florida since the pandemic halted cruise industry operations last year.

U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams’ decision is a blow for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) — who signed a bill in May prohibiting businesses from requiring customers show proof that they’ve received COVID-19 vaccines, saying getting inoculated should be a “personal choice.”

Florida’s ban came into effect on July 1 and Norwegian faced a fine of up to $5,000 for every violation.

What they’re saying: Williams wrote in her order that she reached the decision because Florida had failed to “provide a valid evidentiary, factual, or legal predicate” for the ban.

The big picture: Coronavirus hospitalizations and cases are surging across Florida. DeSantis has blamed the spike on a “seasonal pattern” and “media hysteria.”

In a separate case, Florida’s attorney general has asked the Supreme Court to block the CDC’s protocols requiring cruise lines to meet specific conditions before setting sail again.

What to watch: Peter Patterson, representing Florida and state Surgeon General Scott Rivkees at a court hearing on Friday, indicated that the state may take the Norwegian case to the U.S. Supreme Court, Politico notes.

Read Williams’ order, first obtained by Politico, in full via DocumentCloud:

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