Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order Friday banning businesses from requiring customers to show proof they have been vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to get service.
The Republican governor had previously announced his intent to issue an order banning so-called “vaccine passports.” His action also barred any government agency in Florida from issuing such documentation for the purpose of providing proof of vaccinations.
In his executive order, DeSantis asserts that “vaccination passports reduce individual freedom and will harm patient privacy.”
Effective immediately, Florida businesses are barred from requiring patrons to provide documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccination to enter a business or to get served.
Get South Florida local news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC South Florida newsletters.
But the order does not preclude businesses such as restaurants and retail stores from screening protocols and other measures recommended by state and federal health officials.
And a top labor and employment lawyer told NBC 6 that the order could result in a clash with federal powers.
"If a private company that owns the building is requiring its guests and employees to show a vaccine passport, the governor would have to find a way to find that unconstitutional because at this point it is constitutional," said Andrew Zelmanowitz, a partner in the Fort Lauderdale offices of the Berger Singerman law firm.
He noted that a federal law compels employers to protect both employees and customers from hazards.
"COVID-19 is a known hazard and the employees need to be protected and obviously the fear here -- amongst the other health issues, but from a legal standpoint -- is potential litigation from the employees," Zelmanowitz said.
As of this week, more than 2 million Floridians have been infected by the virus, and nearly 33,500 have died, while 83% of Floridians ages 16-64 have still not gotten a vaccine dose.
Meanwhile, a private university in South Florida will require students and staff to be vaccinated for COVID-19 when they return to campus in the fall. Vaccinations are mandatory by Aug. 1, Nova Southeastern University said in an email announcing a Friday morning news conference.
“As the state, nation and world begins to emerge from the months-long changes to our lives brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Nova Southeastern University is pleased to announce that it intends to resume full, in-person classroom learning for on-ground courses for the fall 2021 semester,” the release said.
The university has 6,314 undergraduate students and 14,574 advanced degree students at its main campus in Davie, and across campuses in Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Miami, Miramar, Orlando, Palm Beach Gardens, Tampa and Puerto Rico.
It's unclear if the university would be in violation of the governor's order.
Follow AP’s coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.