The Florida Department of Health will start fining businesses $5,000 for violating the state’s ban on vaccine passports.
The state agency’s rule, “Penalties for COVID-19 Vaccine Documentation Requirements,” says it will impose the fine on “any business entity, governmental entity, or educational institution.” The $5,000 fine will apply “per individual and separate violation” and must be paid within 30 days.
“Promises made, promises kept,” Gov. Ron DeSantis’ spokesperson Taryn Fenske told Fox 13 Tampa Bay on Wednesday.
The fine does not apply to vaccine mandates businesses impose upon their own employees. Florida is an at-will employment state, which means employees have limited rights and may be terminated for a wide variety of reasons unless they are unionized or are under contract, legal experts told Fox 13.
“Governor DeSantis is retaliating against Floridians who are trying to protect themselves and their communities from COVID-19,” Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat campaigning to run against DeSantis in 2022, told Fox 13 in a statement.
“This not only goes against common sense — it’s also an insult to the free market principles that he claims to champion,” Fried added.
DeSantis consistently opposed vaccine mandates in Florida. “It’s completely unacceptable for either the government or the private sector to impose upon you the requirement that you show proof of vaccine to just simply be able to participate in normal society,” he said at a press conference in March, NPR reported.
Florida is not currently enforcing its ban on vaccine mandates on cruise lines following since a federal judge issued a temporary injunction allowing Norwegian Cruise Line to require proof of vaccination from passengers.
Florida saw a record number of COVID-19 hospitalizations over the last few weeks as the delta variant surged in the state. DeSantis encouraged Floridians to get vaccinated, saying vaccines are effective against the virus.
“Again, we must continue this stride to expand vaccination rates across eligible age groups. As stated by Governor DeSantis, ‘These vaccines are saving lives, and reducing the mortality of COVID-19,’” Christina Pushaw, a spokesperson for Gov. Ron DeSantis, told the Daily Caller News Foundation in a statement in August.
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