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Florida Gov. DeSantis Rejects Vaccine Passports As 'Completely Unacceptable'

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, seen here in January, said this week that he will issue emergency rules to prevent businesses from requiring proof of vaccination.
Joe Raedle
Getty Images
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, seen here in January, said this week that he will issue emergency rules to prevent businesses from requiring proof of vaccination.

As more Americans get vaccinated, the desire to get back out into the world and enjoy activities again is strong. The idea of so-called vaccine passports is increasingly discussed as a way for those who are vaccinated or negative for the coronavirus to prove they are virus-free, and return to something approaching normalcy.

But there is skepticism in some circles, particularly on the right, about the use of such tools, even though they largely don't exist yet in the United States.

Among the opponents is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who rejects the notion of vaccine passports being used to restrict admissions to sites including movie theaters, sporting events, theme parks and airplanes.

"It's completely unacceptable for either the government or the private sector to impose upon you the requirement that you show proof of vaccine to just simply be able to participate in normal society," he said at a press conference Monday.

DeSantis said such passes were unnecessary, and he expressed privacy concerns over large corporations' handling of vaccine data. "You want the fox to guard the henhouse?" he said. "Give me a break."

He said he will issue emergency rules this week that will prevent businesses from requiring proof of vaccination, and will work with the Legislature on a permanent ban. The ban would be specific to COVID-19 vaccines used under the Food and Drug Administration's emergency use authorization, he said, as all the vaccines currently administered in the United States are.

Schools' and universities' typical vaccination requirements against measles and the like are different, he said, and would be unaffected.

The NBA's Miami Heat had already announced last week that it would have special sections at this Thursday's game reserved for fully vaccinated fans. Masks will still be required, but social distancing will be relaxed in those sections.

The White House has repeatedly said that the federal government will not administer vaccine passports, in part because it's clear that a federally run vaccine passport might cause some Americans to avoid getting vaccinated.

"We do know that there is a segment of the population that is concerned that the government will play too heavy-handed of a role in monitoring their vaccinations," White House senior adviser Andy Slavitt said on Monday morning. "In point of fact, it would discourage people, to feel like that was the role we're playing."

Instead, Slavitt said, the federal government will issue guidelines and requirements to the private sector, which it anticipates will develop a "marketplace of solutions."

DeSantis is taking a far different tack from New York state, where embattled Gov. Andrew Cuomo has already announced a voluntary digital pass that can demonstrate a person's vaccination status or negative test result.

Cuomo described the digital passes as a way to get the state's economy back on track and help venues open to larger groups. "It's time to turn the page," he said.

DeSantis also took issue with the somber warnings of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky on Monday, when she described feeling "impending doom" while watching U.S. coronavirus case numbers rise once more, and urged states not to open too soon.

"When you start talking about doom, what you're saying is that the vaccines must not work, because we've had millions and millions of people around the country vaccinated," DeSantis said.

He argued that the rise in cases is instead a seasonal pattern that will decline in April and May, and that many of the new cases are in young people who are not getting severe COVID-19, as many in the older population are now vaccinated.

"There's a lot of people that have been protected by getting those vaccines out. So I think things are going well," DeSantis said.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Laurel Wamsley is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She reports breaking news for NPR's digital coverage, newscasts, and news magazines, as well as occasional features. She was also the lead reporter for NPR's coverage of the 2019 Women's World Cup in France.
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