The Florida governor threatens to fine with up to $ 5,000 per passenger to cruise companies that, leaving from state ports, require proof of vaccination. For its part, the CDC requires that it be verified that 95 percent of those who go on the cruise have already been inoculated against COVID 19.
The least expected battle is happening. The popular governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, is in dispute with the cruise lines, responsible for an industry that directly and indirectly generates more than 600,000 jobs in South Florida alone.
Just a couple of months ago, in April of this year, the Governor of Florida was the cruise industry's best friend. With its ships leaving six ports in the state and the consequent economic impact that carries, DeSantis was one of the main stakeholders in getting the industry back to work. And he led a lawsuit against the CDC (Centers for Disease Control, for its acronym in English) to authorize a protocol under which cruise ships could operate, just as other industries in the pandemic - such as aeronautics - did.
Without the need for a court order, the CDC authorized the return of the cruise ships - after 15 months of inactivity - but on the condition that 95% of the people on board were vaccinated. To verify this, cruise lines had to ask for proof of vaccination. And therein lies the problem with DeSantis.
DeSantis is positioning himself as a standard-bearer for the conservative movement, heir to Donald Trump's votes, which in Florida number in the thousands. His policy in favor of a quick reopening of the economy during the pandemic has made him a national figure, and the approval numbers smile on him (according to a recent poll commissioned by his reelection campaign, 60% of Floridians approve of his term).
Some of the policies that resonate well with their base have to do with emphasizing that vaccination is voluntary, respecting whoever chooses not to inoculate and prohibiting Florida businesses from requiring proof of vaccination (which runs counter to the conservative principle of authorizing private property to act as they want, but still resonate well with their base). Therefore, DeSantis is on a war footing with cruise lines that, following CDC requirements, want to ask for proof of vaccination. To the point of threatening them with a fine of up to $ 5,000 per passenger on each ship that leaves Florida, proof of vaccination is requested.
Cruise companies are between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, there are federal requirements; on the other, most of them have their main operation in Florida and cannot risk paying $ 5,000 per passenger in fines, especially after a year of millions in losses.
The first cruise line to set sail from the United States will be Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean's luxury brand. The first ship will depart on June 26 from the port of Fort Lauderdale. Two weeks away, it is still unclear what the policy will be regarding vaccination. Royal Caribbean's parent company changed its policy from requiring vaccination to suggesting it with incentives. Those who do not voluntarily provide proof of vaccination will be considered unvaccinated and, therefore, will be exposed to having to wear masks and undergo COVID-19 tests, the cost of which they will have to face independently.
This same company sailed the first cruise with mostly American passengers last week from the Caribbean island of St. Marteen. There they were able to demand proof of vaccination and make sure that 95% of the passengers were inoculated (as well as 100% of the employees). Still, two passengers contracted the virus during the trip, including stops in Aruba, Barbados, and Curacao. They were immediately isolated, and no more infections were recorded among the more than 500 passengers.
The fight is at a point of tension, but it is expected that before the first cruise ship from Florida in two weeks leaves, a point of agreement will be reached between the state government, the federal government, and the companies.