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Cruises and COVID-19, Tourism in the Keys, NSU Vaccine Requirements

A crowd of tourists gather for the sunset on Mallory Square last week in Key West.
Nancy Klingener
A crowd of tourists gather for the sunset on Mallory Square last week in Key West.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has filed a lawsuit against the federal government's no-sail order. Plus, tourism is back up to pre-COVID levels in the Florida Keys. And Nova Southeastern University requires vaccines for students and faculty on campus this fall.

On this Monday, April 12, episode of Sundial:

Cruises and COVID-19

Cruising has been shut down in South Florida for more than a year, after numerous high profile cases of COVID-19 spread aboard ships shuttered the industry.

Last week, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a lawsuit against the federal government for refusing to allow cruising to restart.

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We spoke Taylor Dolven, the Miami Herald’s tourism reporter, who explained that the federal government is following the guidance of the Centers for Disease and Control in keeping the cruising industry shuttered.

“The federal government is really focused on three different data points right now,” said Dolven. “How many Americans are being vaccinated and, in that regard, most people believe we are doing quite well. Another data point they’re looking at are these COVID variants, are they continuing to respond to these vaccines and other mitigation efforts. And how quickly can cruise companies comply with safety requirements.”

Some of those safety requirements include regular PCR testing of crew members on board and securing port agreements with the countries their boats plan to visit. As of now, cruises are unable to port in the U.S but are looking to reopen cruising in the Bahamas in the coming months.

Gov. DeSantis and local South Florida leaders, including Republican Congressman Carlos Gimenez, have argued with the continued no-sail order as thousands of individuals working within the cruise industry remain out of work. And the money generated for restaurants and hotels that come from cruise visitors is instead going to port cities in the Caribbean.

04-12-2021 SUNDIAL SEG A Cruise Ind.mp3

Tourism in the Keys

If you traveled to Key West in recent weeks, it might appear that everyone is over COVID-19. The city has seen thousands of touristsduring spring break.

“The county held their regular emergency management call [Monday] morning and they said the traffic counters throughout the Keys were pretty much 100 percent [back to normal]. I think in the Lower Keys, there were like 98 percent of normal most recently. I have [the] preliminary March occupancy number ... it was 95 percent with an average room rate of $436,” said WLRN’s Monroe County reporter Nancy Klingener.

In the Keys, tourism is a double-edged sword — bringing in both much needed revenue, while also risking the spread of COVID-19 at packed bars and busy streets.

“I definitely see visitors when I'm down on Duval Street in downtown. They're not wearing [masks] and they're close together walking around. The city had a strict mask ordinance that ordered you to wear them outside, whether you could social distance or not. They stopped enforcing that. We reported that last month because of the governor's order that canceled such COVID-19 related fines,” said the Miami Herald’s Florida Keys reporter Gwen Filosa.

04-12-2021 SUNDIAL SEG B Key West.mp3

Nova Southeastern Vaccine Requirements

All faculty and students coming to Nova Southeastern University in Broward County this fall need to be vaccinated before Aug. 1. The university made the announcement last week.

On Sundial we spoke with Dr. Harry K. Moon, Nova’s vice president and COO.

“The vast majority of students, faculty and staff have been very receptive to and supportive of the decision. There are some that are, I think, a vocal minority that has expressed concern about the safety of the vaccine and the necessity of a mandate,” Moon said.

NSU became one of the first universities in the country to mandate inoculation. Days later, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order banning so-called "vaccine passports."

“When we announced our plans, we had no knowledge of the governor's plan to issue his executive order. So now that that has occurred, we are reflecting on how that could affect us and our planning to achieve our goal — which is to still have the students, faculty, and staff vaccinated when we return in the fall. So it will be a process where we evaluate it better, understand it, how we can work with it to achieve our goal,” said Moon.

More than 72 million Americans, or nearly a quarter of the U.S. population, has been fully vaccinated. Moon is confident, given the current vaccine supply and the permanent vaccination site on campus, anyone wishing to receive vaccine doses will be able to access them well before the Aug.1 deadline.

04-12-2021 SUNDIAL SEG C NSU COVID Plans.mp3

Chris knew he wanted to work in public radio beginning in middle school, as WHYY played in his car rides to and from school in New Jersey. He’s freelanced for All Things Considered and was a desk associate for CBS Radio News in New York City. Most recently, he was producing for Capital Public Radio’s Insight booking guests, conducting research and leading special projects at Sacramento’s NPR affiliate.
Suria is Sundial's fall 2020 high school intern and a production assistant.