Aug 6 - Norwegian Cruise Line on Friday said to a federal judge that Florida had banned vaccine passports to score political points and said the company should be allowed to require proof of COVID 19 shots from passengers when it sails from the state this month.
The line is scheduled for its first post-pandemic cruise from Miami on Aug. 15 and has committed to health authorities that at least 95% of travelers will be vaccinated.
However, those plans collided with the Florida ban that was touted by Governor Ron DeSantis, a leading national figure against what he says has been government overreach in handling the pandemic.
Florida's law forbids businesses, government entities and schools from requiring proof of COVID - 19 immunity in exchange for service. The law has certain exceptions, as to healthcare.
A lawyer for Norwegian told U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams that lawmakers had never intended to protect discrimination or prevent privacy.
They want to score political points for one side in a heated debate over whether people should be vaccinated, Derek Shaffer said.
The court battle comes as government entities respond to the rapid spread of the Delta variant of coronavirus with vaccination requirements, prompting legal challenges from vaccine skeptics and civil libertarians.
The judge pressed a lawyer for the state to explain the problem facing Florida consumers that lawmakers were trying to fix. We don't want them to carry vaccine documentation to access the economic marketplace, said Pete Patterson, the state's lawyer.
Who was appointed by Democratic President Barack Obama asked Williams why they didn't ban companies to mandate shots for their workers?
Don't you think it's odd the statute doesn't worry about discrimination of the state employees who are here in Florida but is focused on patrons of a business, who are sailing away to other ports of call? She said and stepped up to where she was.
If a Norwegian passenger denied boarding they could be fined up to $5,000 because they did not provide proof of immunity.
The law had signed an executive order in April from DeSantis, who is staunchly against COVID - 19 restrictions, even as the Republican governor state has become a hotbed of infections https: www.reuters.com world us us-covid - 19 - cases-hit - six months - high-over - 100000 - reuters-tally - 2021 - 08 - 05 - cases-high with hospitalizations at record levels.
Norwegian is ramping up its return to cruises that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shut down in March 2020 with its No Sail order.
On Saturday, Norwegian will make its first post-pandemic sailing from a U.S. port with an Alaska cruise from Seattle.
In order to sail, Norwegian has attested to the CDC it would confirm passengers have been vaccinated.
Our policy of 100% vaccination, combined with preboarding testing of guests and routine testing of crew, is in place without issue in the nearly 500 ports we sail to and from around the world, except Florida ports, said the company's CEO Frank Del Rio on an earnings call on Friday.
The company said on Friday that it is seeing pent-up demand for 2022 cruises.