Three companies from southwest Florida are being investigated by the Florida Department of Health for violating state laws that prohibit COVID-19 vaccination passports and other mandates. The Department of Health has placed you on the list of over 100 performing arts centers and cruise lines that is under investigation.
This list includes BIG ARTS in Sanibel Island and Fort Myers Repertory Theater, as well as the NCH Healthcare System of Collier County.
Companies can face a $ 5,000 fine if they are found in violation of the state’s law.
NCH and the Florida Rep both claimed they weren’t contacted about this investigation by either the Florida health department nor any other government agency. Both said that they believe they are following the law, and they did not break it.
Greg Longenhagen is the artistic director at Florida Rep. He stated, “We haven’t heard from anyone.” “Nobody has ever come to us and offered anything.”
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Michael Dest, a spokesperson for BIG ARTS, stated that the company declined to comment. He stated that BIG ARTS safety and health guidelines were available on the site.
Florida Rep has introduced COVID safety protocols. Customers must show proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID testing at the door. To enter, you don’t need to present a vaccine card.
Fort Myers Theater is just one of several performing arts venues in Florida who require such COVID documentation. There are also two other Fort Myers theaters: the Laboratory Theater of Florida and Music and Arts Community Center.
None of the other venues were included in the survey by the state.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis approved the ban on so-called vaccine passports. According to the law, companies are prohibited from asking customers for proof of vaccinations. The state health ministry is empowered to “impose sanctions on relevant facilities and institutions that need documentation about post-exposure or vaccination status.”
Anyone who suspects possible violations can also file an email complaint.
Longenhagen stated that Florida Rep does not appear to be in violation of the law. The theater offers every patron the option. A carefully designed policy stipulates that all visitors aged 12 or older must present a positive COVID-19 certificate at the doors. If you prefer, you may also be able to show proof of vaccination.
Longenhagen stated that people have the option to submit a negative result. “Or if you want – if you want. We don’t ask for it. There is no need to ask. Instead, you can prove that your vaccinations have been completed. It’s up to you to prove that they were vaccinated. But, we don’t require that people be vaccinated.
Longenhagen stated that this was the way the theater formulated their policy. This formulation was developed by Florida Rep from other Florida concert promoters and arts organizations. Safe Arts Sarasota is one of the many Sarasota-based arts groups that has agreed to adhere to consistent COVID safety protocols. This also includes asking for evidence of vaccination or negative COVID testing.
Lab Theater and MACC both create COVID guidelines in the same fashion.
NCH Healthcare System in Collier County, which is a private non-profit hospital, was also placed on the state’s watch list. This may be because of a potential violation of the Prohibition of Vaccination Records to be reviewed.
NCH released a statement saying it was waiting on “an officially notice from the State” and that the passport ban will apply to any business that does not require customers or clients to show documentation that is COVID-19 vaccinated or Certify that they have recovered after an infection.
According to Matthew Heinle (general counsel at NCH), the hospital’s vaccination requirements are only for employees, contractors, and volunteers. They have “never required patients or visitors” to show proof of vaccination.
NCH further noted that this section does not apply for healthcare providers.
He said, “In addition to that, media from across the state reported on the spin-off law, which state legislators extended to hospitals and nursing homes in the late spring 2021.” “We will continue updating the media whenever we get an official notification from the state about the matter.”
BIG ARTS doesn’t require visitors to show proof of vaccination, or a negative COVID testing, however, all employees and volunteers need to be vaccinated. The venue informed The News-Press on September 30. Staff, volunteers, and performers must all be fully immunized.
The list of organizations that were inspected by the Florida Department of Health was published Monday.
The Florida Department of Health has now the authority to penalize any agency that requests documentation of post-exposure or vaccination status. This was stated in an email by its communications bureau Tuesday. “If you think you are aware of a violation, you can file a complaint and the department will review, evaluate and investigate if necessary. All facilities in breach of the law will be punished.
The list does not include all Florida businesses.
Longenhagen claimed he didn’t worry about Florida being investigated or paying a penalty.
DeSantis spokeswoman Christina Pushaw said in an August statement that companies cannot require customers to show proof of vaccination for entry to services or admission. Pushaw said if concert or theater goers “can present a negative COVID test instead of a vaccination certificate, it is acceptable under the law. If you would prefer to show proof of vaccination over a COVID, it is possible to. You can’t force it.
Longenhagen stated that most people visiting Florida Rep present their vaccine cards. While he did not have any statistics, Longenhagen said that only a handful of people show negative COVID tests every day and the majority are giving vaccination cards.
Longenhagen said, “We are not asking that anyone show us proof that they have been fully vaccinated.” “We communicate clearly with our patrons.”
Longenhagen indicated that Florida Rep is looking to relax its COVID policies soon, especially if COVID positivity rates continue to drop in Southwest Florida.
He said that the positivity rate had been falling for more than a month. “And according to CDC guidelines, as soon as we can get below 5 percent positivity rate, the CDC has different protocols and different recommendations at play. It was 5.6 last week. I see no reason it should be lower this week.
Jay Handelman from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune contributed this article.
Connect with this reporter: email firstname.lastname@example.org or connect on social media at Charles Runnells (Facebook), @charlesrunnells (Twitter), and @ crunnells1 (Instagram).
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