DeSantis defends $5,000 fines for businesses that require proof of vaccination as Delta continues to sweep Florida

Governor is appealing a recent ruling striking down his executive order banning school districts from enforcing mask mandates for students

Graig Graziosi
Friday 03 September 2021 21:14 BST
Republican Governor of Florida Ron DeSantis begins withholding salaries of school board members who defied mask prohibition
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Florida plans to begin issuing $5,000 fines for any business, school or government agency that requires customers or visitors to show proof they have been take the coronavirus vaccine.

The state's Republican Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill earlier in the year banning vaccine passports and used his executive power to prohibit schools from enforcing mask mandates on students.

He also used his executive power to end all local emergency mandates requiring indoor masking in businesses.

Mr DeSantis has pushed back against coronavirus mitigation efforts for practically the entirety of the pandemic, often on the grounds that they hurt businesses. However, critics says the fines the state will issue against businesses if they choose to require vaccines will impede on their ability to conduct business as they wish.

The state will begin issuing the fines on 16 September. It does not apply to employers who require their staff to be vaccinated.

Cruise lines are also exempt from the fines thanks to a court order blocking the law specifically for that industry.

The Orlando Sentinel reported that the state's Agriculture Commissioner, Nikki Fried, who is the state's only elected Democrat and hopes to replace Mr DeSantis as governor, pushed back against the fines.

“Governor DeSantis is retaliating against Floridians who are trying to protect themselves and their communities from COVID-19,” Ms Fried said in a statement to the publication. “This not only goes against common sense — it’s also an insult to the free market principles that he claims to champion.”

Florida has been one of the hardest-hit places in the country by the Delta variant of the coronavirus. The US Department of Health and Human Services has reported that more than 15,000 patients are hospitalised in the state, up from 1,800 in June.

In August, the state recorded more coronavirus cases than at any other point in the pandemic.

Further, more than 10,000 students were isolated or quarantined within the state's first week of school. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association, a fifth of new coronavirus cases is occurring in children.

Nearly 46,000 Floridians have died from Covid-19 since the pandemic hit the US in January 2020.

A judge in the state recently struck down his executive order banning schools from enforcing mask mandates as unconstitutional. The governor has appealed the ruling and will now be reviewed by the 1st district court of appeals in Tallahassee.

In the meantime, Mr DeSantis and the Florida Department of Education have moved on their threat to withhold the salaries of school administrators whose districts defy his unconstitutional executive order.

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