The governor’s order says it’s ‘necessary to protect the fundamental rights and privacies of Floridians,’ but the order makes no allowances for the rights of businesses to determine their own safety protocols to protect customers and employees.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis really hates the idea of restaurants and theme parks making customers show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination before buying a meal or a ticket.
So, he signed an executive order last week saying businesses that require so-called “vaccination passports” won’t be eligible for state contracts or grants. The practical extent of that threat isn’t yet clear.
Also, all governments are prohibited from issuing any kind of documents certifying a person’s COVID vaccination.
The order says a requirement for vaccine documentation would “reduce individual freedom” and “create two classes of citizens.” DeSantis wants the Legislature to pass a law codifying his order, lickety-split.
Unfortunately, but predictably, DeSantis made no attempt to address any of the tough questions surrounding vaccine requirements.
Like what his sweeping, no-exceptions ban might mean to the cruise line industry’s plans to safely reopen in Florida by requiring proof of a COVID vaccination.
Norwegian and Royal Caribbean, both of which have ships in Florida ports, have fashioned protocols to require that all passengers and crew be vaccinated once ships resume sailing.
Never mind that. DeSantis followed his bull-in-a-china-shop governing instincts, which play well with the political base but risk playing havoc with industry.
Not fully wrong
DeSantis isn’t wrong to be concerned about the potential unfairness of businesses requiring customers to provide proof of vaccinations. Not everyone is avoiding vaccines because they foolishly believe Bill Gates is trying to inject microchips into their bodies (he’s not).
Some Floridians haven’t been vaccinated because they live in underserved communities. Younger people only recently qualified to get a shot. Some Black Americans are hesitant
because of a history of abusive medical treatments.
Any system of so-called passports to distinguish the vaccinated from the unvaccinated —
whether developed by government or business — must take into account those and other factors.
For example, it’s important to consider what’s an essential human service (buying groceries) versus what’s not (going on a cruise).
A thoughtful plan also would consider environmental conditions, like whether the business is mostly open air (a theme park) versus one that has people in confined spaces for longer periods of time (an airplane).
Losing business risks
Cruise lines are right to be hypersensitive about preventing COVID outbreaks. At the beginning of the pandemic, cruise ships were high-profile petri dishes for disease, with massive outbreaks onboard that hastened the spread of disease once sick passengers disembarked.
DeSantis’ order is particularly head-scratching because he’s been agitating for the Centers for Disease Control to lift its no-sail order and allow cruises to resume in the United States. So has U.S. Sen. Rick Scott.
They understandably don’t want Florida to lose its cruise business to less restrictive Caribbean ports.
The cruise lines’ vaccination protocols are an important part of the attempts to get the CDC restrictions lifted. Why, then, would DeSantis potentially torpedo their reopening plans by ordering a total ban on vaccine requirements?
The governor’s order says it’s “necessary to protect the fundamental rights and privacies of Floridians,” but the order makes no allowances for the rights of businesses to determine their own safety protocols to protect customers and employees.
More thought, Less impulse
How strange, considering the mantra of DeSantis’ Republican Party for so long has been less business regulation, not more.
What’s apparent is that, in Florida, the protection of rights is situational, based more on politics than on ideals.
The state is enthusiastically embracing an anti-protest bill that would infringe on the First Amendment right to assembly, while also threatening social media companies’ First Amendment rights to control what appears on their platforms.
DeSantis’ order frets about creating “two classes of citizens,” but neither he nor the Legislature ever acted to extend Florida’s civil rights protections to sexual orientation or gender identity.
However, the Legislature is moving quickly to make sure that transsexual girls and women can’t compete in sports for girls and women.
So please, spare us the governor’s indignation over the threat to personal rights from “vaccination passports.”
As to the governor’s call for his executive order to become state law, we’re counting on the Legislature to act with less impulse and more thought.
The commentary is courtesy of the Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board/Tribune News Service.