Now that Disney Cruise Line has joined Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian in planning to require COVID vaccines for passengers 12 and older, it’s time for Florida’s governor to drop his nonsensical court fight — using our money — to defend the state’s dangerous ban on vaccine passports.
Disney made the announcement Tuesday that it would now require proof of vaccination. But the real push came from the government of The Bahamas last week. Starting Sept. 1 (and lasting through October, for now), cruise ships will only be allowed into Bahamian ports, including on private islands used by cruise lines, if eligible passengers are fully vaccinated. Medical exceptions are allowed. Children under 12 will have to provide proof of negative COVID-19 tests taken within a week and take another test before boarding.
Maybe we should be embarrassed that The Bahamas and Disney have to enforce common sense in Florida, but at this point, we’ll take it.
Gov. DeSantis, meanwhile, is busily defending the law that he pushed for, and the Legislature passed in the spring, that prevents businesses including cruise companies from requiring vaccines for service.
Norwegian Cruise Line rightly challenged the law in court. A federal judge sided with Norwegian, granting a preliminary injunction that stopped the law from being enforced. But rather than recognize that the state passed a bad law with potentially deadly consequences, Florida upped the taxpayer-financed ante again and appealed to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The governor and legislative Republicans have tried to sell the idea of their ban as a matter of personal liberty, even though it’s clear that being vaccinated is the best way to prevent infection. They also floated the notion that they were trying to protect minorities because — see if you can follow this reasoning — a higher percentage of white people has been vaccinated than Black or Hispanic people, therefore requiring vaccines of ship passengers amounts to discrimination. Got it?
After that sort of cobbled-together nonsense, we welcomed Norwegian CEO Frank Del Rio’s fresh and unflinching assessment of the matter. On Yahoo Finance last week, he called the situation “beyond bizarre,” “shameful” and a failure of governmental leadership. He noted that Florida relies on tourism: “And the No. 1 priority of any hospitality business is to keep their customers safe.”
Running for office
So why is DeSantis, ostensibly a pro-business Republican, fighting against Florida businesses and common sense?
Hmmm. Perhaps it’s because here we are again, talking about him. Plus, his political base is no doubt thrilled with his valiant cruise-at-all-costs stance. It certainly hasn’t hurt his appearances on Fox News. And all of that, of course, is because he’s running for reelection and maybe the White House.
In the interview last week, Norwegian’s Del Rio was bubbling over with the same frustration and anger we feel: “I mean, come on, give it up. This is a pandemic we are talking about, people are dying every day, Florida now is the epicenter of the epicenter. What does it take for sound judgment to rule?”
Almost 43,000 people in Florida have died of COVID, children are now in the cross-hairs and the delta variant continues to rage through the state. But rather than help companies take the best measures they can to keep passengers safe, DeSantis spends money — did we mention it’s our money? — to defend his deadly opposition to common sense.