Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed four bills into law — adopted during a special session of the Florida Legislature — intended to prevent workers from losing their jobs due to COVID-19 vaccination mandates and to protect parents’ rights to make healthcare decisions for their children.
DeSantis signed the bills during a news conference on Nov. 18 at Brandon Honda.
In making the announcement, which was posted on YouTube, DeSantis said, “We provide protections for people. No nurse, no firefighter, no police officer, no trucker — no anybody — should lose their job because of these COVID jabs.
“We’re making sure that people have a right to earn a living, people have protections in their place of employment and that parents have protections to be able to direct the upbringing of their kids,” the governor said.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody told the crowd: “Today, we announced that Florida has filed a lawsuit against the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare, which has required all Florida healthcare professionals to be mandated — regardless of even if you are tending to patients.
“We know, in our rural counties in Florida, we are seeing devastating losses of healthcare professionals, already. This will decimate our ability to provide needed, vital, crucial, healthcare to Floridians,” she said.
FlSenate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby put it this way: “If you go back to April and May and June, of 2020, we were in a situation where our healthcare frontline providers were putting their lives on the line every day, prior to there being a vaccine. Prior to there being monoclonal antibodies. Prior to there being the antivirals that we have today.
“So, now, that same nursing force, that took us from April of 2020 to November, of now, 2021, now, we’re saying, ‘Thank you, but we don’t respect your private, individual rights any longer,’” Simpson said. “We are not going to do that in the state of Florida. We’re not going to do those unconstitutional mandates that are coming down from the federal government.”
Under the new Florida laws, which took effect immediately:
- Private employer COVID-19 vaccine mandates are prohibited, without providing at least the five following individual exemptions: Medical reasons, as determined by a physician; religious reasons; immunity, based on prior COVID-19 infection; periodic testing, at no cost to the employee; agreeing to comply with the use of employer-provided personal protection equipment
- Government entities may not require COVID-19 vaccinations of anyone, including employees.
- Employers who violate these employee health protections will be fined. Small businesses (99 employees or less) will face $10,000 per employee violation. Medium and big businesses will face $50,000 per employee violation.
- Educational institutions may not require students to be COVID-19 vaccinated.
- School districts may not have school face mask policies.
- School districts may not quarantine healthy students.
- Students and parents may sue violating school districts and recover costs and attorney’s fees.
The day after DeSantis signed the bills, Hillsborough County Schools announced on its website that because of the new law it no longer would implement a mask mandate
Pasco County Schools ended its mandatory mask policy at the end of last school year.
Meanwhile, on another front, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have authorized COVID-19 booster shots for anyone over the age of 18.