Alaska News

Alaska cruise ships unaffected by Florida’s early victory in lawsuit over CDC’s COVID-19 measures

JUNEAU — Cruise ships bound for Alaska are unaffected by a Friday court order that pauses COVID-19 mitigation rules imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The ruling specifies it applies only in Florida, according to attorneys for the state of Alaska and the City and Borough of Juneau.

The state of Florida sued the Biden administration and the CDC in April, saying that COVID-19 restrictions on large cruise ships violated federal law. A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction in favor of Florida on Friday, pausing the CDC’s rules for at least one month.

Earlier this month, attorneys defending the CDC suggested that if Florida succeeded in pausing cruise ship rules nationwide, large ships might be unable to travel to Alaska because a new federal law requires CDC approval for Alaska trips in 2021.

But Friday’s order doesn’t mention Alaska and doesn’t apply nationwide.

“This is only applying to Florida-bound ports,” said Lael Harrison, an attorney for the Alaska Department of Law who is representing the state in the Florida case.

“That’s my understanding,” said Robert Palmer, Juneau’s municipal attorney.

Juneau is Alaska’s most-visited cruise ship port, and Palmer had been following the case.

Alaska attempted to join Florida’s lawsuit last month, but that request is still pending, Harrison said. She said it’s possible that the CDC could change its rules nationwide in response to Friday’s decision, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Cruise lines, the state of Alaska and port cities in Southeast Alaska are still working on COVID-19 prevention plans required by the CDC before large sailings begin.

Smaller ships — those carrying fewer than 250 passengers — are already active in Southeast Alaska, and the first large ship is scheduled to arrive July 9 in Ketchikan.

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