Florida will begin issuing $5,000 fines for businesses, schools, and government agencies requiring customers or visitors to show proof that they have received a COVID-19 vaccination.
The Florida Department of Health published the rule, called “Penalties for COVID-19 Vaccine Documentation Requirements” on Aug. 27 and it will go into effect on Sept. 16.
According to the statute, a business, school, or government building “may not require patrons or customers to provide any documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccination or postinfection recovery to gain access to, entry upon, or service from the business operations in this state.”
The law does not apply to businesses that require vaccination for staff members, and will impose a fine up to $5,000 “per individual and separate violation.” The business will have the opportunity to appeal, then the fine must be paid within 30 days.
The statute goes on to say that it does not restrict entities “from instituting screening protocols consistent with authoritative or controlling government-issued guidance to protect public health.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill in May banning businesses from requiring proof of vaccination, saying the concept known as vaccine passports would cause “huge” privacy issues. The rule is an addendum to the bill.
DeSantis spokesperson Taryn Fenske said on Wednesday, “Promises made, promises kept.”
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat hoping to challenge DeSantis for governor in the 2022 gubernatorial election, slammed the fines.
DeSantis “has made it abundantly clear that he’s more interested in getting revenge against Floridians who are trying to do the right thing than he is in stopping the spread of COVID or supporting our local businesses,” the statement said.
“Governor DeSantis is retaliating against Floridians who are trying to protect themselves and their communities from COVID-19…This not only goes against common sense — it’s also an insult to the free market principles that he claims to champion.”
DeSantis has engaged in a bitter back-and-forth over public health restrictions intended to limit the spread of the virus for months.
After DeSantis issued an executive order banning mask mandates, 10 Florida school boards voted to defy the order. Last week, Leon County Circuit Judge John C. Cooper agreed with parents who opposed the order, saying it “is without legal authority.”
As mostly unvaccinated COVID patients continue to overwhelm hospitals, Florida remains one of five states, alongside Alabama, Georgia, Texas and Arkansas, where fewer than 10 percent of ICU beds remain available.