The Florida Department of Health has issued a notice indicating it will start issuing $5,000 fines to businesses, schools, and government agencies that require Floridians to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
The health department rule, which goes into effect on Sept. 16, details the penalties that businesses and other entities, including nonprofits, face for violating section 381.00316 of the 2021 Florida Statutes, which prohibits them from requiring customers or patrons to provide any documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccination or postinfection recovery in order to gain access to their premises or services.
“Each violation of Section 381.00316, F.S., will result in the imposition of a $5,000 fine per individual and separate violation against the business, governmental entity or the educational institution. Fines imposed are due and payable to the Department within 30 days of entry of the final order unless otherwise stated in the final order,” reads the Florida Department of Health notice.
Health care providers are exempt from the fine, which also does not apply to vaccine requirements businesses or other entities impose on their own employees.
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order in April that banned vaccine passports.
“No COVID-19 vaccine is required by law,” the governor’s order stated, adding that “vaccination records are private health information” that shouldn’t be shared via a mandate. The passports, DeSantis said at the time, would infringe on personal liberties and harm patient privacy.
“A requirement to show a passport to take part in everyday life such as a sporting event, going to a restaurant or going to a movie theater would ‘create two classes of citizens,’” DeSantis stated.
Reacting to the Florida health department’s announcement that it would start imposing fines on entities demanding patrons show proof of vaccination, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the state’s only statewide elected Democrat and a candidate hoping to challenge DeSantis for governor next year, was critical.
“Governor DeSantis is retaliating against Floridians who are trying to protect themselves and their communities from COVID-19,” Fried told The Associated Press 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.”
By Tom Ozimek