Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday issued an executive order barring government agencies from issuing COVID-19 “passports” and preventing Florida businesses from requiring customers to show documentation that they have been vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 before gaining entrance.
The order directs state agencies --- such as the Department of Business and Professional Regulation and the Agency for Health Care Administration, which regulate bars and restaurants and nursing homes and hospitals, respectively --- to “work to ensure businesses comply with this order.”
Moreover, the order precludes businesses that violate DeSantis’ order from qualifying for grants or contracts funded with state tax dollars.
“Requiring so-called COVID-19 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,” the order said.
The order added that “it is necessary to protect the fundamental rights and privacies of Floridians and the free flow of commerce within the state.”
The executive order made good on a promise by DeSantis to use his broad executive authority to block businesses from requiring customers to show COVID-19 passports. Earlier this week, DeSantis said he thought vaccine passports would create “huge” privacy issues that could result in people handing over medical information to a “big corporation.”
“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,” DeSantis said. “If you want to go to the movie theater, should you have to show that? No. If you want to go to a game, no. If you want to go to a theme park, no. … I think it’s something that people have certain freedoms and individual liberties to make decisions for themselves.”
Noting that executive orders generally only are good for 90 days, DeSantis also told reporters that he wanted the Legislature to pass a bill that would ban the use of the passports.
“I think it would provide a lot of certainty to a lot of people to say that,” DeSantis said.
Senate President Wilton Simpson said Thursday that he doesn’t think passports should be required. But Simpson didn’t make any promises that the Senate would pass a ban.
“So it’s something that we will certainly attempt to address if there is an appropriate bill to do that with,” Simpson, R-Trilby, told reporters.
Last week, Simpson told reporters that private businesses should be able to operate as they see fit.
“On the surface, I would say ‘yes’ because they are a private business.” Simpson said when asked if businesses should be able to require customers to have passports. “They can do what they want. But, clearly, they will bear the responsibility of that decision.”
DeSantis’ executive order came after news reports that the Biden administration is considering pushing federal agencies and companies to develop a program that would allow people to show they have been vaccinated. Republican leaders in other parts of the country also have criticized passport requirements.
The European Union, meanwhile, has announced that it plans to issue a “Digital Green Certificate” that will allow European Union citizens to freely travel across member nations. The certificates will prove that people have been vaccinated against COVID-19, have already recovered from the virus or have tested negative. The goal is for the Digital Green certificates to be in play by summer.
In Israel, people who are vaccinated or who already have been infected by COVID-19 can get a “green pass” from the Health Ministry. The app allows them access to gyms, theaters and clubs.
Nearly 6 million people in Florida had received at least one dose of vaccine as of Wednesday, with about 3.4 million fully vaccinated, state Department of Health numbers show.