Tampa Bay businesses “under review” for allegedly violating Florida vaccine passport law

TALLAHASSEE – Less than a month after the state of Florida began enforcing a law banning so-called “vaccine passports,” officials from the Florida Department of Health began compiling a list of companies, individuals and governments “under review” for violation thereof. .

The list includes several names from the Tampa Bay area, including the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater, the Gasparilla Music Festival, and the BayCare Health System. Major South Florida businesses like the Miami Marlins baseball team are also included. The Tampa Bay Times obtained a copy of the list through a public archive request.

Weesam Khoury, spokesperson for the health ministry, said the list came from complaints from citizens and was up to date on Friday. Khoury did not respond to follow-up questions about the review process, including whether the ministry reviews complaints before an organization is added to the list.

The list was first reported by the Orlando Sentry.

The so-called vaccine passport law signed by Governor Ron DeSantis says that no company, school or government can refuse service to someone on the basis of their coronavirus vaccination status. Violators are liable to a fine of $ 5,000 per violation.

Related: New Florida Department of Health rule: $ 5,000 fine for certain vaccination warrants

Florida moved on Wednesday to a Leon County fine of $ 3.5 million after the county demanded its employees get vaccinated and fired 14 employees who refused. Leon County Administrator Vincent Long said the county disagreed with the state’s interpretation of the law. The law does not explicitly mention how governments can manage their employees.

Some names on the complaints list have already had high-profile battles against DeSantis’ ban on vaccination warrants. For example, Norwegian Cruise Lines is in an ongoing legal battle with the state over its desire to require passengers to be vaccinated. Norwegian obtained an injunction from a federal judge in August, which ruled that the cruise line can continue to ask passengers for proof of vaccination.

Some of the others on the list say they think they are on the list in error because their policies follow state law.

Paul Bilyeu, communications director of the Straz Center, said the venue was not aware of the list until the Sentinel story has been published. The Straz requires participants to show proof of a recent negative test or, instead of a test, proof of vaccination. State officials have already acknowledged that such an arrangement is legal.

“We know we’re on the list, but that’s it,” Bilyeu said. “We haven’t heard from anyone in an official capacity on what this means.”

A spokeswoman for the Gasparilla Music Festival said she was not aware of any state investigation. The festival, which took place in Tampa on the first weekend of October, also required attendees to show a recent negative test or proof of vaccination. The same goes for the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater and several other venues across the state that are on the list.

A spokesperson for Allegiant Air, which flies from St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport, said its inclusion on the list was “completely without merit because Allegiant, like all other domestic carriers, does not do not require proof of vaccination from clients “. A spokesperson for the Miami Marlins said the state had not been in contact with the club about any investigation.

The list contains misspellings, and several businesses and locations appear repeatedly: The Straz Center is listed four times, the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater seven times. It also lists “Tampa Amphitheater” twice, which is not the name of any place but may refer to the place of MidFlorida. It is not clear whether the repetition involves multiple complaints or investigations.

Several events are listed, including those as recent as last weekend when the Zac Brown Band and Brooks & Dunn performed at MidFlorida. And it includes at least one show that hasn’t happened yet: Jason Aldean is due to perform in MidFlorida on October 30, in a concert falsely listed as “David Aldean.”

Elsewhere on the list are large corporations – Starbucks, Raytheon, Equinox – and much smaller entities, including a residential address in Sanford and someone identified by their full name. It includes public officials, such as Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, and agencies, such as the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Counterterrorism Unit, based in Jacksonville. Some entries are vague: “contractor for military defense”. “DoD Employees”.

The state also lists “Moffitt Communications,” which does not match the name of any entity in the state corporation database.

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