Florida’s ‘vaccine passport’ ban will be enforced starting this month

ORLANDO, Fla — Florida’s headline-grabbing move to ban so-called “vaccine passports” is finally getting teeth.

In a short paper published earlier this week, the Department of Health formalized the process and rules for fining businesses, governments and school districts that attempt to require vaccines for non-employees.

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Gov. DeSantis’ original executive order, released in the spring, penalized any offenders with a $5,000 fine per violation. The rules allow people to appeal, but payments must be made within 30 days after a final decision.

According to the DOH rule, enforcement will begin on September 16.

“The decision to get a COVID vaccine should be up to individuals, who have the power to make the right choices for themselves and their families,” DeSantis spokeswoman Christina Pushaw said Wednesday. “The government’s role is to provide information about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines, and to ensure that all eligible residents have access to the vaccines.”

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Some companies are working around his rule. Concert and other live event promoters are requiring attendees show proof of vaccination or a recent negative coronavirus test.

Only one company is exempt from the rule. Norwegian Cruise Lines won a preliminary injunction after suing the state for violating the company’s rights and risking public health. The company requires all passengers to be vaccinated, even when departing from a Florida port.

“A lot of these are economic decisions, to keep businesses afloat and also prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Rep. Anna Eskamani (D) said, blasting the governor for a move she said was against traditional conservative free-market principles.

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Eskamani said many businesses had not even thought to have a conversation about vaccine mandates, but she pointed out many were shifting their views when it came to mandating shots for employees.

DeSantis has not opposed those types of mandates, saying decisions should be left up to employers.

Even so, the idea of a mandate divides Americans. In a recent survey by the National Restaurant Association, 32% of restaurant customers said they’d be less likely to visit a place with a mandate. 33% said they’d be more likely to visit, while 35% responded that they didn’t care either way.

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