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Florida Department of Health to issue $5,000 fines for certain vaccine mandates

A recent Florida law bans businesses, government entities and educational institutions from requiring proof of a COVID-19 vaccine.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Editor's note: The video above is from Aug. 25.

The Florida Department of Health recently ironed out its rules surrounding enforcement of a current state law that bans businesses and governments from requiring proof of vaccination — and threatens a fine.

State lawmakers passed SB 2006 in late April, which banned businesses, government entities and educational institutions from requiring proof of a COVID-19 vaccine or "vaccine passports." Days later, in May, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law. 

In the legislation, FDOH is allowed to impose fines that do not exceed $5,000 for those who violate the law. Now, the state agency says it will do just that. 

FDOH says any "business entity, governmental entity or educational institution" that requires proof of vaccination will have to pay a $5,000 fine. Those who receive a fine can appeal, but once it's finalized, they will have 30 days to pay it.

The rule is scheduled to go into effect on Sept. 16.

The governor has been a strong supporter of banning such requirements, signing an executive order barring anything that forces people to prove they've been immunized weeks before the law was passed. 

DeSantis has said in the past, "It’s completely unacceptable for either the government or the private sector to impose upon you the requirement that you show proof or vaccine to simply be able to participate in normal society."

In response to news of the fines, Florida Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried said the governor was retaliating against Floridians who are "trying to protect themselves and their communities."

"Let me be clear, this is not only against common sense - it's also an insult to free market principles he claims to champion," Fried said.

When it comes to employees, businesses and schools can require proof of vaccination. This is because the FDOH rule clearly mentions 'patrons' and 'customers,' but doesn't mention employees.

After reading the rule, Meredith Gaunce who practices employment law said businesses can require their employees to be vaccinated. “Employers are very much able to mandate vaccines of their employees. As long as they allow for two exemptions. One is for a religious based exception, people whose religions don’t allow them to be vaccinated at all, which is very rare. The second one is a medical exemption, it’s not 'I’m diabetic, I can’t get the vaccine,' it’s 'I have this condition and here is a letter from my doctor about why the vaccine is dangerous for me,'" Gaunce explained.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 12.9 million Florida adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine — about 75.3 percent of the adult population. Only 10.9 million are fully vaccinated.