TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida will start issuing $5,000 fines to businesses, schools and government agencies that require people to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination.
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill earlier this year that banned vaccine passports. The fines will start Sept. 16 if people are asked to show proof of a vaccine.
"Promises made, promises kept," DeSantis spokesperson Taryn Fenske said Wednesday.
The statute reads that a business entity “...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 same rules apply to governmental entities and educational institutions.
The statute continues by stating that it does not otherwise restrict businesses, government entities or educational institutions “from instituting screening protocols consistent with authoritative or controlling government-issued guidance to protect public health.”
Finally, the statute reads, “The department may impose a fine not to exceed $5,000 per violation.”
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the state's only statewide elected Democrat and a candidate hoping to challenge DeSantis for governor next year, was critical of 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."
COVID-19 infections in Florida have skyrocketed over the summer as the state has been one of the hardest hit areas of the U.S. from the delta variant. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has reported more than 15,000 patients are currently hospitalized in Florida, up from about 1,800 in June.
Follow AP’s coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.