Texas joins Florida lawsuit to challenge COVID-19 cruise restrictions it claims are costing the state millions – Houston Public Media


Galveston’s new transit facility is across from its cruise ship terminal

The state of Texas has intervened in a lawsuit in Florida to remove COVID-19 restrictions on cruises, saying in a court document filed Wednesday that pandemic regulations have cost the state millions of dollars in taxes.

According to the civil complaint, more than one million cruise passengers leave Texas ports each year, creating $ 1.6 billion in direct spending and supporting approximately 27,000 jobs.

But until March 2021, the effective shutdown of the industry resulted in spending losses of $ 1.2 billion and the loss of 23,000 jobs.

“As a result of these losses, cruise lines and other tourism-related businesses suffered massive financial losses and were forced to lay off or fire workers,” the lawsuit says. “As such, Texas has suffered a decline in tax revenue and increased costs due to the payment of unemployment benefits.”

Because Texas has no income tax, the state argued that sales tax revenue is critical to the economy.

The lawsuit also says the Texas oil and gas industry has been affected by the grounding of cruise ships.

The CDC issued a cruise ship ban order on March 14 last year, shutting down the industry as the COVID-19 pandemic intensified in the United States.

That order lasted until October 30, when the CDC issued what it called a conditional navigation order, spelling out the steps needed to reopen the cruise industry.

According to the ordinance, cruises must establish a crew laboratory test protocol, plan simulated trips to prepare for a COVID-19 risk, go through a certification process, and return to service “in a manner that mitigates COVID-19 risk among passengers, crew and U.S. communities.

Other guidelines released in April require cruise ship operators to seek CDC approval at least 30 days before a simulated trip and provide additional information to the CDC at least 60 days before resuming operations.

“(The) CDC has a three-month waiting period from when it issues guidelines for simulated travel and where a cruise ship could potentially be allowed to set sail,” the lawsuit said.

The state argued in its civil complaint that the Port of Galveston is well prepared for a possible COVID-19 cruise epidemic, due to its proximity to the Galveston National Laboratory of the University of Texas Medical Branch, and because the port already has infectious disease management. plan.

The port had previously activated this plan during an Ebola alert in 2014 on a cruise ship, according to the state. The port also instituted training on the COVID-19 outbreak on a cruise ship in 2020, ahead of the industry shutdown, according to the complaint.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not return requests for comment on Wednesday.

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