DeSantis 'triples down' on fight to protect virus, $5,000 fines for schools that require vaccination

DeSantis 'triples down' on fight to protect virus, $5,000 fines for schools that require vaccination
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. William Buchanan)
Gov. Ron DeSantis, commander in chief of the Florida National Guard, addresses the crowd during a change of command ceremony at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center on April 6. During the ceremony U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. James Eifert assumed command from U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Michael Calhoun, who retired after 36 years of service


For decades, Florida schools have required vaccinations. The Florida Department of Health currently lists vaccinations against at least seven different diseases that are required for both public schools, private schools, and even daycare facilities. Both students and teachers are required to be vaccinated against everything from polio and pertussis to chickenpox and hepatitis B.

But Gov. Ron DeSantis has informed these same schools—along with every government agency and private business in the state—that they will be fined $5,000 it they ask for proof of vaccination against COVID-19. As WJXT in Jacksonville explains, DeSantis says he doesn't want a "biomedical security state" in which people are forced to produce proof of vaccination. To underscore this desire, Florida's Republican-dominated legislature passed, and DeSantis signed, a bill saying that no business, school, or agency can "require patrons or customers to provide any documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccination."

The maximum fine that bill allows is $5,000. Letters sent this week have made it clear that DeSantis intends to begin fining people the maximum amount immediately. Meanwhile, as WFLA reports, two children died in Florida from COVID-19 on Thursday—including a newborn who was just two weeks old. The director of a pediatric intensive care unit confirmed that children "do get severe conditions and we are seeing more and more of them in the ICU."

DeSantis' actions on both masks and vaccines aren't just unsupportable in terms of science or public health, they're actively destructive. At some point, if a policy looks like it's trying to kill people, and it acts like trying to kill people, it's just trying to kill people.

What did DeSantis spokesperson Taryn Fenske have to say when gloating over the announcement that fines were about to be levied? She offered a very Trumpy "Promises made, promises kept."

If that promise is that DeSantis will do everything possible to promote his profile to the ragged edge of Trump-supporting extremists who are willing to see children get sick rather than require decent public health practices … then yes, that promise was definitely kept.

The absolute proof that the fines against COVID-19 are a triumph of politics over public health can be found on the Department of Health's web site.

These are the requirements for a child entering daycare:

  • Diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis (DTaP)
  • Inactivated polio vaccine (IPV)
  • Measles-mumps-rubella (MMR)
  • Varicella (chickenpox)
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
  • Pneumococcal conjugate (PCV13)
  • Hepatitis B (Hep B)

Students progressing through the grades are required to have multiple doses of vaccines. In addition, teachers must be regularly tested for tuberculosis, and these tests can be extended to students if there is a positive case in the community.

COVID-19 vaccines are currently available to every teacher, every staff member, and to every student over the age of 12. Every high school, college, and university in Florida could—should—require vaccination for all of the above. Because that would not just save lives at those schools, it would also help to slow the spread of the virus in the broader community. In addition, it would simply make good business sense, as it would help the schools avoid situations where they were forced to shut down after outbreaks sidelined teachers and students—something that has been happening repeatedly. As The Miami Herald reported on Friday, two more districts in the northern part of Florida shut down when teachers, food workers, and bus drivers were all caught up in a "worsening spread" of COVID-19.

Florida continues to be the first or second state in the nation when it comes to new cases of COVID-19. Despite how the state has changed reporting of deaths to make it seem that improvement is always underway, it's clear that Florida is actually logging record numbers of COVID-19 deaths each day. Schools are closing. Children are dying.

Despite a court ruling that DeSantis' blocking school mask mandates is an unconstitutional overreach of his power, DeSantis is both challenging that ruling in court and going ahead with blocking funds to schools that require masks. Now DeSantis is fining schools and private businesses if they ask for proof of vaccination.

There are only possible reasons for this:

  • Ron DeSantis is promoting the spread of COVID-19 because he feels that destroying sound public health practices is beneficial to his political career, no matter the cost in lives or health.
  • Ron DeSantis is promoting the spread of COVID-19 because he enjoys seeing people suffer and die.

Which one of these is worse is open to debate. The objective results of DeSantis policies are not.

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