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Alaska joins Florida lawsuit challenging CDC guidelines, urging cruise ships be allowed to sail

Cruise ship docked in Juneau
Cruise ship docked in Juneau
Published: Apr. 20, 2021 at 4:24 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The state of Alaska is joining a Florida lawsuit against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in an effort to get the agency to allow cruise ships to begin sailing immediately.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s office announced in a Tuesday press release that Alaska will join the lawsuit that was filed in early April. It challenges the CDC’s no sail order for the cruise industry. The CDC issued new guidance, also in early April, providing a framework to get cruise ships sailing safely again, but the order did not mean ships could sail immediately.

Tuesday’s announcement that Alaska will join Florida’s lawsuit comes after Dunleavy sent a letter to the White House warning of the dire economic impacts Alaska would feel in the absence of a second cruise season this summer.

According to the governor’s office, the CDC’s conditional sailing order doesn’t take into account Alaska’s relatively high vaccination rates compared to other states. While Alaska once led the country in terms of vaccination rates, CDC data reported by the New York Times shows the state has fallen down those rankings in recent weeks.

The announcement from the governor’s office also notes Alaska’s relatively low rates of hospitalization due to COVID-19.

“The Conditional Sailing Order also fails to recognize the cruise industry’s voluntary safety measures and the safe resumption of cruising in other countries,” the release states.

In the release, the governor’s office also asserts that the cruise ship industry is being treated differently from other travel sectors, like flying.

“Alaska has urged the CDC to withdraw or amend its Conditional Sailing Order to allow for a cruise season in Alaska,” Dunleavy is quoted as saying in the release. “Alaskan families and small businesses need fast action to protect their ability to work and provide for their families. We have been told to follow the science and facts. Cruise ships have demonstrated their ability to provide for the safety of passengers and crew, and Alaska has led the nation in vaccinations and low hospitalization rates. We deserve the chance to have tourism and jobs.”

Maritime lawyers have said such a lawsuit it not expected to succeed in court, but that the pressure put on the federal agency by the publicity of the lawsuits could pressure the federal government to speed up the process of allowing cruise ships to sail once more.

“Through this lawsuit, Alaska seeks to protect its citizens and its interests by forcing the CDC to act within the limited authority Congress granted it,” said Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor in the press release. “CDC simply does not have the authority to arbitrarily shut down an entire industry.”

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