Florida lawmakers may expand COVID-19 protections

Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 5:48 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAP NEWS/WCJB) - Florida Senators asked COVID-related questions and got few answers Wednesday from both the Department of Health and the Agency for Health Care Administration.

One question not asked was about was pending fines for businesses and governments who have been accused of asking for proof of vaccination.

When the Department of Health appeared before lawmakers Wednesday, it wasn’t asked about the $3.57 million fine it is imposing on Leon County for its vaccine mandate.

So we asked after their presentation in the Senate committee.

“We’ll get back to you as soon as possible,” said Department of Health Spokesperson Megan Moran.

Democratic State Senator Janet Cruz alleged the Department wouldn’t speak in person because everyone is following a script.

“It’s about control. You know, it’s about the mask mandate. It’s about denying science,” said Cruz.

The Department of Health did respond with a statement later in the afternoon.

“Under the rule, the Florida Department of Health now has the authority to enforce penalties on applicable entities and institutions that require documentation of vaccination or post-exposure status. To ensure accountability and enforcement of this law, the Department of Health, Floridians and visitors can submit complaints to the Florida Department of Health at VaxPassFreeFL@FLHealth.gov,” said DOH Communications Director Weesam Khoury

Leon has 21 days to file an administrative appeal.

In a statement, the county said it will seek legal relief.

The fine comes as the Department of Health is investigating at least 120 businesses that may have required a vaccine to enter.

The author of the legislation now said lawmakers should look at stopping not just government, but businesses from mandating shots for employees.

“I think everything should be on the table during this unique and unprecedented time because what we have here is a workforce issue to begin with,” said State Senator Danny Burgess.

The idea isn’t sitting well with Cruz.

“Taking local control away from people that believe in science is a little bit ridiculous,” said Cruz.

Lawmakers are likely to move cautiously, as some of the state’s biggest employers, including Disney, have already mandated shots.

“I think that’s a moving target. I think conversations will be had,” said State Senator Manny Diaz.

Wednesday’s presentation did show hospitalizations and deaths declining.

If the trend continues, the political appetite for tougher sanctions against governments and businesses may wane as well.

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