March 30, 2021 -- Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday that he plans to issue an executive order that would forbid local governments and businesses from requiring proof of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to The Associated Press.

DeSantis has spoken out against “vaccine passports” and said he will take steps to ban businesses from refusing to serve people who can’t prove they’ve been vaccinated.

“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 participate in normal society,” he said at a news conference in Tallahassee, FL.

“You want to go to a movie theater. Should you have to show that? No. You want to go to a game, should you have to show that? No. You want to go to a theme park? No. We’re not supportive of that,” DeSantis said.

His announcement comes as some public health researchers question whether the state is underreporting the number of deaths related to COVID-19 by several thousand.

Still, DeSantis made the announcement at the state Capitol, where he signed a bill that would shield businesses and schools from COVID-related lawsuits for coronavirus safety protocols. The state Legislature approved the bill on Friday.

During the Monday news conference, DeSantis called on the Republican-led Legislature to send him a bill that would ban vaccine passports, but he didn’t provide specifics. He added that requiring proof of vaccination would be “an unprecedented expansion” of public and private power.

Also on Monday, more Floridians became eligible for vaccination, with the minimum age lowered to 40. On April 5, ages 18 and older will be eligible.

More than 5.6 million vaccine doses have been administered in the state, according to data from the Florida Department of Health. About 2.5 million people have received the first dose, and 3.1 million people are considered fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, health researchers are analyzing the COVID-19 numbers in Florida and believe the state has undercounted the number of people who have died from the virus, according to Yahoo! News.

In new research published in the American Journal of Public Health, thousands more died than reported officially in state numbers. The research team estimated that nearly 5,000 excess deaths in the state should have been counted as COVID-19 deaths.

“I am sure that COVID-19 is responsible for most of these excess deaths,” Moosa Tatar, PhD, the lead author and a public health economist at the University of Utah, told the news outlet.

Tatar said the research team decided to focus on Florida data because the state quickly lifted COVID-19 restrictions. Florida has the fourth-highest number of COVID-19 deaths but is also the second most populous state and has the second-oldest population in the U.S., which may factor into pandemic numbers.

Across both Florida and the U.S., there seem to be “patterns of underreporting,” Andrew Stokes, PhD, a global health scientist at Boston University, told the news outlet. Heavily Democratic counties tend to report excess deaths as COVID-19 deaths, and heavily Republican counties tend not to report the excess deaths as COVID-related.

“There’s a lot of regional variation within Florida” and across the country, he said.

WebMD Health News Brief

Sources

SOURCES:

The Associated Press: “Florida governor to forbid ‘vaccine passports.’”

Florida Department of Health: “COVID:19 vaccine summary through March 28, 2021.”

Yahoo! News: “Florida COVID numbers face new scrutiny.”

American Journal of Public Health: “Analysis of Excess Deaths During the COVID-19 Pandemic in the State of Florida.”

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