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Florida's move to ban vaccine passports gains national attention

Governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive order Friday that bans vaccine passports, or proof you've been vaccinated to go to a restaurant or an event.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — It has been almost a week since Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive order banning vaccine passports. The governor's move put Florida in the national spotlight. 

The order cites privacy and personal freedom concerns as reasons for prohibiting proof a person has been vaccinated to attend an event or eat at a restaurant. If a business doesn't comply, it could lose access to grants or contracts funded by state revenue. 

"I think it [vaccine passports] would be detrimental to a lot of businesses," Carry Paige, managing partner at Aqua Grill in Ponte Vedra, said. 

Paige said he agrees with DeSantis' decision to ban the passports. 

“I also believe the person has the right to choose whether they want to be vaccinated. That’s their free right," Paige said. "I think if they, you know, they [other businesses] want to go the passport way, I think it would probably hurt them. I think they're eliminating a lot of potential business," he said.

Eliminating business is something Paige said he doesn't even want to think about. COVID forced him to furlough 40 employees last year. 

"I just don't think I would be a business that would be able to enforce the passport, nor do I think it would be fair to enforce the passport," Paige said.

“I wouldn't require a mandatory vaccination for my employees. They have the right to choose what goes into their bodies, and I think that right is their right, not my right," he said.

First Coast News asked people on Facebook, "how do you feel about vaccine passports?" Comments ranged from "not a fan of them," to "I want one," to "they are intruding on my HIPPA privacy law."

FCN reached out to venues and event organizers in the area for their thoughts too. A spokesperson for the Jacksonville Symphony, currently around 33 percent capacity, said they're still working on plans for next season. The spokesperson said they're "not ready to speak to anything definitively." 

Spokespeople for both the Florida Theatre and the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp said they had no comment. The Icemen didn't return a request for comment. 

FCN also reached out to local colleges and asked if the administration is making students and staff get vaccinated. A spokesperson for the University of North Florida said, "Due to the evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is too early to determine UNF’s fall safety guidelines, including vaccine requirements."

A spokesperson for Flagler College sent a statement from the school's vice president of marketing and communications, Carol Branson. The statement reads, "Like many other schools, Flagler College is studying this for the fall. For now, we are making a college-wide effort to strongly encourage all of our faculty, staff and students to get vaccinated. We held a COVID vaccine clinic for employees in early March that was highly successful, and this week we conducted a vaccine clinic with our partner Flagler Health for students. This student clinic filled all available appointment slots. We are proactively working to make everyone on campus aware that by getting vaccinated it will help us return to what we hope will be a fully in-person campus in the fall."

Jacksonville University's spokesperson said in a statement, "Jacksonville University is encouraging all members of our campus to get their COVID-19 vaccine. It is voluntary – not required. We are encouraging those who do get vaccinated to share that news with the University through a voluntary electronic form, as we work to better understand how many members of our campus have some form of immunity against the virus. Our expectation is that many safety precautions and limitations on our campus will be lifted by the fall 2021 semester, barring a surge in active cases in the broader community that could prompt more restrictive public safety guidelines."