Florida stopped schools and companies from needing COVID-19 Vaccination Requirements on Thursday, paving the way for a possible exit from the federal agency tasked with ensuring workplace safety.
Governor Ron DeSantis, a right-wing Republican who is widely expected to run for president in 2020, signed the new rules in Brandon, the same name used as a euphemism for a vulgar slur in a chant against Democratic Vice President Joe Biden.
“We’re making sure that people have a right to earn a living, people have a right to have protections at their place of employment, and that parent has protections to be able to direct the upbringing of their kids,” said DeSantis.
In a later announcement of the bills’ signing on Twitter, DeSantis referred to “the free state of Florida.”
DeSantis echoed anti-vaccine sentiments, claiming that vaccines don’t protect against coronavirus illnesses and that “natural immunity” should allow individuals to return to in-person work.
Public health professionals and Democratic lawmakers slammed the legislation right away.
“Gee,” California Governor Gavin Newsom wrote on Twitter. “What could go wrong…”
The laws were enacted during a three-day special session of the Republican-controlled Florida legislature convened by DeSantis to prevent the federal government, as well as private companies and school districts, from imposing coronavirus vaccination requirements.
Immunizations = Protection Against Reinfection (Vaccination Requirements)
Employers can ask their workers to be vaccinated, but they must also enable people to opt-out for religious, health, and other reasons. Despite indications that the immunizations give better protection against reinfection and major cases requiring hospitalization, people who have already had COVID-19 would be excluded.
Employers that refuse to accept the exclusions face fines of up to $50,000 per offense. Government institutions are also prohibited from forcing vaccines under the new regulations. Vaccination Requirements may not be required, and teachers and pupils may not be required to wear masks.
The statutes also prohibit school districts from imposing quarantine requirements on otherwise healthy pupils who have been exposed to COVID-19 before returning to class.
The legislature also authorized the governor’s office to prepare a proposal to establish a state-run workplace safety agency to replace the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s power.
Florida is one of many conservative states suing the federal government to prevent it from implementing the Vaccination Requirements enacted by the Biden administration.
In Florida, the third-most populated state in the United States, almost 61,000 individuals have died from COVID-19, but new cases have dropped considerably in recent weeks as the summer spike has subsided.