Federal judge blocks Florida’s ‘vaccine passport’ ban
©WikiMedia (Piergiuliano Chesi)
Federal judge blocks Florida’s ‘vaccine passport’ ban

The US District Court for the Southern District of Florida ruled on Sunday that Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Ltd. (NCLH), a cruise ship company, can enforce proof of vaccine requirements before boarding, delivering a blow to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis‘s plan to ban “vaccine passports” within the state.

In arriving at her judgment, Judge Kathleen Williams stated that NCLH has shown that irreparable injury would be caused to the company if it were to abide by Florida Statute § 381.00316. This statute bans companies from requiring persons to provide proof of Covid-19 vaccination.

Judge Williams agreed with NCLH that the statute is likely unconstitutional under the First Amendment and “the balance of harm and the public interest weigh in [NCLH’s] favour” of granting the injunction.

Judge Williams further agreed that by allowing potentially unvaccinated passengers onto its cruise ships, NCLH would have to cancel itineraries that flowed through Florida. This would cause undue financial hardship for the company.

Judge Williams concluded that by abiding by the “vaccine passport” ban, NCLH will be unable to comply with the standards imposed by other international ports and there is a real threat of undue delays due to quarantines or testing at ports of entry. This in turn would exacerbate financial and emotional hardships.

NCLH Vice President Daniel Farkas stated of the ruling that he was “pleased that Judge Williams saw the facts, the law and the science . . . allowing [NCLH] to operate cruises from Florida with 100% vaccinated guests and crew.”

DeSantis signed the “vaccine passport” ban into law earlier this year. The act continues a trend among Republican lawmakers to emphasize personal freedom and choice over mandatory medical intervention or preventative measures.

DeSantis has been particularly virulent, banning public schools from enforcing mask-mandates, refuting the scientific basis for CDC recommendations, and refusing to address concerns raised from municipal leaders over the pandemic.

Florida routinely has the some of the highest COVID rates in the country. The state reached a new high of approximately 24,000 novel cases on Sunday while 1 in 4 hospital beds in the state currently hold a patient suffering from COVID-19.