Florida will begin enforcing $5,000 fine for seeking COVID vaccine proof

Vaccine Card – Courtesy: Shutterstock – Image by vovidzha

According to a Department of Health rule issued last Friday, Florida will begin to issue $5,000 fines to schools, businesses, and government agencies that require visitors or customers to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination.

Republican Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill earlier this year that banned vaccine passports. These fines will begin on Sept. 16 if people are asked to show proof of their vaccinations. The new law does not apply to employers who require their staff to be vaccinated. 

“Promises made, promises kept,” DeSantis spokesperson Taryn Fenske said Wednesday.

However, cruise lines are exempt from these fines thanks to the federal court order that temporarily blocked enforcement of the law for that specific industry, according to an earlier statement from the governor’s office. DeSantis is appealing that decision.

“We believe the ruling will be overturned upon appeal, and we are confident in the legal basis for Florida’s vaccine passport ban,” press secretary Christina Pushaw said on Aug. 24. “Governor DeSantis is making decisions based on empirical evidence, upholding the rule of law, and protecting all Floridians’ individual rights. Defending individual rights from unjustified overreach, whether by government or business, is a legitimate use of state executive power.”

Pushaw added that “allowing businesses and educational institutions to require vaccine passports as a condition of entry or service would create a two-tiered society, which is unfair.”

Nikki Fried, Agriculture Commissioner and Florida’s only statewide elected Democrat and candidate hoping to run against DeSantis for governor next year, was critical about the fines.

“Governor DeSantis is retaliating against Floridians who are trying to protect themselves and their communities from COVID-19,” Fried said in an emailed statement. “This not only goes against common sense — it’s also an insult to the free market principles that he claims to champion.”

Over the summer, COVID-19 infections have increased exponentially in Florida. The state has been one of the highest affected areas in the U.S. from the delta variant in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.

Currently, the United States Department of Health and Human Services has reported more than 15,000 hospitalized patients in Florida, which is up from 1,800 in June.

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