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White House blocked CDC order to keep cruise ships docked

The White House has blocked a new order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to keep cruise ships docked until mid-February, a step that would have displeased the politically powerful tourism industry in the crucial swing state of Florida.

The current “no sail” policy is set to expire Wednesday. Dr. Robert R. Redfield, director of the CDC, had recommended the extension, worried that cruise ships could become viral hot spots, as they did at the beginning of the pandemic.

But at a meeting of the coronavirus task force Tuesday, Redfield’s plan was overruled, according to a senior federal health official who was not authorized to comment and so spoke on condition of anonymity. The administration will instead allow the ships to sail after Oct. 31, the date the industry had already agreed to in its own, voluntary plan. The rejection of the CDC’s plan was first reported by Axios.

Redfield, who has been scolded by President Donald Trump for promoting mask wearing and cautioning that vaccines won’t be widely available until next year, worried before the Tuesday decision that he might get fired and had considered resigning if he were required to oversee a policy that compromised public health, according to a senior administration official as well as a person close to Redfield.

The cruise ship industry has considerable political influence in Florida. The Cruise Lines International Association said that the industry generates $53 billion in economic activity. The Florida Ports Council said that state’s cruise industry, the largest in the nation, has been the hardest hit by the coronavirus.

Republican politicians in Florida and cruise industry lobbyists have called for ending the no-sail order. “I urge the CDC not to extend or renew the ‘No Sail Order,’” Carlos A. Gimenez, the Republican mayor of Miami-Dade County, said

White House Blocked C.D.C. Order to Keep Cruise Ships Docked

Dr. Stephen Ostroff, a former acting commissioner of the F.D.A., who serves on the Healthy Sail group, said they have recommended that cruise passengers be tested before arriving at the ship, and then again before boarding.

“The one thing that you want to make sure of is that the virus doesn’t get on there in the first place,” Dr. Ostroff said.

Dr. Ostroff acknowledged that passengers who are exposed to the virus en route to the ship would not necessarily test negative, but could be infectious. He also said that the group’s other recommendations, such as allowing fewer passengers, enforcing mask wearing and installing improved air filtration systems, aim to limit the spread of the virus on a ship should an infected passenger board.

Brian Morgenstern, the White House deputy press secretary, denied that the administration’s cruise ship plans were politically motivated. “The president, the vice president and the task force follow the science and data to implement policies that protect the public health and also facilitate the safe reopening of our country,” he said.

Dr. Redfield is in a precarious position after weeks of public confrontations with the White House.

On Friday, he told a colleague that he was concerned that Dr. Scott W. Atlas, one of Mr. Trump’s top coronavirus advisers, was providing the president with misleading information, according to an NBC reporter who overheard Dr. Redfield’s telephone conversation on a commercial airplane.

The incident followed Mr. Trump’s rebuke of the director earlier this month, after Dr. Redfield testified at a Senate hearing that a vaccine would not be widely available until the middle of next year and that masks were perhaps even more important than a vaccine for curbing the spread of the virus. Mr. Trump told reporters later that day that he believed the director had