DeSantis signs COVID-19 lawsuit protection bill and bans ‘vaccine passports’

Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at March 29 news conference in Tallahassee.
Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at March 29 news conference in Tallahassee. (The Florida Channel)

TALLAHASEE, Fla. – Florida businesses, governments and healthcare providers will be protected from coronavirus lawsuits if they made a good effort to follow guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed a bill providing the protections.

“I think a lot of people have governed themselves accordingly with that fear, but we also believe, I think, that as a legislature and certainly me as the governor, that we don’t want to be in a situation where people are scared of being sued just for doing normal things,” DeSantis told reporters.

The legislation was the first bill to go to the governor during the 60-day legislative session that began March 2.

The governor said the new law would be effective immediately.

“The message is, you know, we want folks to be able to live their lives, provide opportunities for people to do different things and then let individuals make the decisions about what they want to do,” he said. “You know, you want to go listen to the band? Go do it. You don’t? That’s fine. But we want those opportunities for as many people as possible.”

In order for a lawsuit to move ahead, a plaintiff would have to show that the defendant deliberately ignored guidelines. A plaintiff would also need a signed affidavit from a doctor stating with reasonable certainty that injury or death caused by COVID-19 was a result of the defendant’s actions.

Vaccine passport ban

DeSantis is also forbidding local governments and businesses from requiring so-called “vaccine passports” to show proof that customers have been inoculated against the coronavirus.

The governor says he will be issuing an executive order.

He made the announcement on a day when eligibility for receiving COVID-19 vaccinations in Florida was lowered to age 40. As of Monday morning, 5.6 million doses of the three coronavirus vaccines have been administered in Florida, according to health statistics provided by the Florida Department of Health.

The governor is also calling on the Republican-led Legislature to consider a measure addressing “vaccine passports” but did not give specifics.

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