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A federal judge ruled Sunday in favor of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH), allowing them to require passengers to show proof of vaccination in defiance of Florida’s vaccine passport ban.
US District Judge Kathleen Williams granted the cruise line a preliminary injunction, temporarily blocking enforcement of the ban, concluding NCLH would likely win in its argument that the ban infringes upon the company’s constitutional rights.
In the 59-page ruling, she said Florida failed “to provide a valid evidentiary, factual, or legal predicate” for the vaccine passport ban and that the law could negatively impact public health.
The ruling represents a major blow to Governor Ron DeSantis’ efforts to stop vaccine mandates in the state of Florida, which currently has one of the worst COVID-19 surges in the US.
The Republican first banned government agencies and businesses from requiring vaccine passports with an executive order in April, arguing the ban would protect the unvaccinated from discrimination. A month later, the legislature passed a bill that expanded on the order.
NCLH, a $10 billion company that owns Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, sued Florida’s top surgeon in July over the ban, arguing it prevented the company from protecting its employees and customers.
“We are pleased that Judge Williams saw the facts, the law and the science as we did and granted the Company’s motion for preliminary injunction allowing us to operate cruises from Florida with 100% vaccinated guests and crew,” Daniel S. Farkas, the company’s executive vice president, said in the statement.
The company said it’s planning for its first cruise in 15 months to set sail from Miami on August 15 with 100% vaccinated staff and passengers.
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