A look at Florida prohibiting so-called vaccine passports at businesses

Published: April 14, 2021 5:37 PM EDT
Updated: April 15, 2021 12:56 PM EDT

The governor has already banned them the idea of a vaccine passport in Florida, but will that hold if private businesses want them?

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order that prohibits businesses from requiring so-called vaccine passports.

“The idea that you should have to show that to be able to participate in normal activity like going to a football game or movie theater or any of that — certainly for a government to force you — that’s something that is not acceptable,” DeSantis said publicly.

That said, we asked experts whether the state can enforce this if a private business still wants to implement something of this nature.

“Does the governor have the legal authority to do that? And there I’d say I doubt it,” said Eric Feldman, a professor at University of Pennsylvania.

“The governor can preach at private business all he wants, but the incentives are such that a lot of private businesses are going to experiment with versions of this,” said Walter Olson, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute’s Robert A. Levy Center for Constitutional Studies.

If those businesses say a cruise line wants a vaccine passport, they can challenge the executive order in court. Businesses can decide who to welcome as long as it does not discriminate.

“One of the things they could try that might really work in getting back some doubtful customers is say, ‘Look, everyone on the boat, besides yourself will also have been vaccinated,” Olson said.

The Miami Heat basketball team put a vaccine passport plan of sorts in place, only to get rid of it this week. The Heat said it did not change its proposed policy because of the governor’s executive order, only that the team believes requiring masks and social distancing is enough for fans to feel safe when they attend Heat games.

“I would guess the public there is going to some degree just vote with its feet,” Feldman said.

The experts we spoke to agreed the governor has a stronger case when it comes to state-operated or state-funded facilities.