Executive order issued on Friday by Governor Ron DeSantis disallows businesses from requiring customers to provide any documentation that they’ve gotten a COVID-19 vaccine to gain access or service. Businesses that do this will not be able to get state grants or contracts, he said.
Governor DeSantis has recently dismissed the notion of so-called “vaccine passports” as conditions for travel or other activities.
“People have certain freedoms and individual liberties to make decisions for themselves,” Governor Ron DeSantis said during a news conference Monday when he announced that he would soon issue an executive order about vaccine passports.
He also said that: “I also wonder, it’s like, okay, you’re going to do this and then what? Give all this information to some big corporation? You want the fox to guard the hen house? I mean, Give me a break.”
The governor’s executive order says that no Florida government is permitted to issue vaccine passports or similar documentation “for the purpose of certifying an individual’s COVID-19 vaccination status to a third party.” It also says that businesses that do require patrons to provide evidence of vaccination or post-transmission recovery from the virus would not be eligible for grants or contracts funded through state revenue.
The request says that requiring vaccine passports “for taking part in everyday life — such as attending a sporting event, patronizing a restaurant, or going to a movie theater — would create two classes of citizens based on vaccination.” DeSantis said the order is needed to “protect the fundamental rights and privacies of Floridians and the free flow of commerce within the state.”
The idea of requiring vaccines is not exactly new; certain inoculation records are needed for school and for certain positions, for example. Yet, the possibility of such international IDs for the Covid has brought up lawful and moral issues — especially from traditionalist policymakers.
Governor DeSantis said on Twitter that he would push for the Legislature to enshrine his vaccine passport policy into Florida law.
No bills enacting restrictions on vaccine passports had been filed as of Friday in either the Florida House or the Florida Senate. But on Thursday, Senate President Wilton Simpson said his chamber would look into the issue. The 60-day legislative session ends April 30.
Some Florida associations have effectively organized endeavors to have supporters show they’ve been inoculated. The South Beach Food and Wine Festival, for example, is requiring confirmation of antibody or proof of a negative Covid test three days prior to going to any occasion.
Some public health experts were concerned that vaccine passports would impede those who have had difficulties in accessing the vaccines.
”We do need to be extremely careful with regard to equity when we’re thinking about vaccination as a rite of passage to enter economic, social, and other public interactions,” said Zinzi Bailey, a social epidemiologist and board member of the Florida Health Justice Project
She noted that many people still have not been vaccinated and that certain groups, such as Black and Hispanic Floridians, are still less likely to have gotten a shot.
Bailey said she doesn’t understand why the governor’s executive order talks about individual freedom but restricts business owners from setting policies to make their employees and customers safer.
A spokeswoman for the Florida Chamber of Commerce declined to comment on the executive order, saying everyone in the office was out for Good Friday.
The governor’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
Judy Lisi, president and CEO of the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa, is hopeful some Broadway shows could return to Tampa as early as this fall. A passport could help fill theaters faster, she said, especially if professional actors’ unions decide they won’t let members perform in venues without vaccine requirements.
”Our business is going to depend on a high level of vaccine,” she said. “Our audiences, we want to attract them and get them safely inside these theaters, and we need to get to 100 percent capacity.”
She called DeSantis’ stance on passports “unfortunate.”
”I just don’t think he [DeSantis] understands our business or the sports business,” she said. “We’re about people in seats sitting next to each other. So the vaccine passport could be critical for these businesses rebuilding and restarting successfully.”