The Florida House ratified a bill Wednesday that will permanently ban COVID-19 “vaccine passports.”
The House voted 76-40 to approve the Senate’s proposed bill (SB 2006), which Pandemics & Public Emergencies Committee Chairman, Tom Leek, R-Ormond Beach, said would help prepare Flordia for the next public-health emergency while striking a “delicate balance between protecting people and protecting people’s civil liberties.”
Leek said, “We have vaccines, through some miracle of science, that work. We must also recognize that COVID-19 vaccines don’t have the same proven history as some vaccines we require our schoolchildren to get. We must recognize that vaccine hesitancy is real and understandable.”
“Don’t get me wrong,” Leak continued. “For all of you in this room, for all of you listening out there, get vaccinated. Please get vaccinated. Let’s return to normal. But recognize that it is fair for a certain segment of our community to be distant about getting the vaccine.”
Democrats have raised concerns about the bill, saying it will delay Flordia’s return to normalcy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Vaccine passports could be used to show that a person has been vaccinated prior to entering highly-populated places like businesses or schools.
“I don’t know many people who are going to get on a cruise if they don’t have the security of knowing that the person on that cruise with them, in that close environment with them, have also been vaccinated,” said Rep. Omari Hardy, D-West Palm Beach.
“If you care about your business community as certain elected officials in this state say that they do, if you care about keeping Flordia open, and making sure that we’re not losing jobs to the pandemic, why would you prevent people from enacting policies that give their customers assurance, the confidence that they can walk into a business, and that they’ll be safe?” Hardy asked.
On April 2, Governor DeSantis issued the executive order outlawing COVID-19 passports, which he said would create “huge” privacy issues that could result in people handing over medical information to a “big corporation.”
The bill prohibits businesses, schools and government entities from requiring customers show documentation to certifying their COVID-19 vaccinations or post-infection recovery.
Rep. Michael Grieco, D-Miami Beach, said the bill caters to anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists.
“The irony is that this bill would grant rights to the people who would not have been vaccinated, but it doesn’t protect me,” Grieco said.
While also barring vaccination passports, the bill requires local emergency orders to be tailored and to be extended in seven-day increments for 42 days. Currently, such orders can be issued initially for seven days, then extended indefinitely in seven-day increments.
The bill would give the governor power to override local orders if deemed to “unnecessarily restrict individual rights or liberties.”
Among other aspects of the bill, state agencies would also be required to develop public health emergency plans by the end of 2022 and the Division of Emergency Management would have to stockpile personal protective equipment.
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