Florida Businesses: the Ball is in Your Court
This week, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis put local governments and Florida businesses in a bind with an executive order that forbids local municipalities from implementing laws that force people to wear masks in public. Taking a strong right turn, DeSantis' stance is simple: if you believe in the vaccines, if you believe in the science, as DeSantis claims his Government is, then you believe that there's no need to wear masks any longer (supposing you're vaccinated). This very conundrum has been felt across America, as people have wondered how we'll wiggle our way back into something that feels like normal life.
Supporters of the Governor cheered and breathed a sigh of relief about the policy, while detractors say that it's another example of State Government overreach. This comes on the heels of DeSantis signing the law that forbids local municipalities from defunding police departments without state approval, granting the state the right to effectively veto any laws that are attempted to pass, the so-called "anti-riot" bill.
At the time of this writing, 42% of Floridians have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while 27% have received both doses (if two were necessary). The medical and scientific communities have expressed concerns that at the rate we're going, we'll never truly reach the gold-standard herd immunity that we've been striving for since the early days of the pandemic, during the Trump presidency.
The fear is that we'll always have pockets of COVID-19 outbreaks that continue to haunt the state for years to come.
But what does this all mean for your business?
As local Florida counties have fired back against the DeSantis Administration, like Orange County Mayor Jerry Demmings saying the mandates will remain in place regardless of the executive order, businesses are now faced with the daunting responsibility of carrying the decision on their own shoulders.
Walt Disney World, a massive employer and a boom for the Florida economy, immediately released a press statement saying that on their premises, the mask mandates would still be in effect. The company doubled down on the fact that there will be no exceptions to the policy, despite the relaxed stance from the governor.
In Florida, as in all of the United States, businesses can do effectively what they want, so long as they don't violate the law. And the executive order says nothing about what private businesses can and cannot do. Governor DeSantis wouldn't be that crazy to think he can reach into our businesses and tell us what we can and can't do on our own property. That would be political suicide.
This all comes on the heels of a New York Times article published yesterday that states that experts now believe that herd immunity is little more than a distant pipe dream, something we'll never attain. It's believed that even at this tremendous pace of vaccination, we'll still not be able to reach herd immunity, as vaccine demand has been in free-fall over the past few weeks after the initial surge of vaccinations. This has led to the "vaccine wall", where those who wanted to be vaccinated already have, while those who do not have stood firm on their refusal.
This means that private businesses who want to continue to practice all of the same safety measures we've been practicing since the outset can do so under the premise that our vaccine percentage is so low. While the information we have is far from complete, there is some belief that vaccinated people can still transmit the virus to others, meaning it's at least theoretically possible that Florida businesses who don't practice safety measures could be in jeopardy of future lawsuits.
Time will tell if any meaningful suits come from the COVID-19 pandemic.