Remember when denying wedding cakes to gay people was about freedom?
Florida Gov. Ron De Santis seems to want cruise ship passengers to get sick. Says he will fine cruise companies $5,000 for each person who is required to show proof of vaccination before boarding.
— Jim Roberts (@nycjim) May 30, 2021
Now we are facing a different kind of conflict between freedom of contract and the government. In this case, the conflict revolves around state requirements that businesses allow unvaccinated people as customers, even if the business operates in tight indoor quarters. Only now the Republican Party stands firmly on the side of heavy-handed state regulation.
Several Republican-run states have enacted laws forbidding private businesses from requiring proof of vaccination. The reductio ad absurdum of this stance comes via Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who is threatening to block a cruise line from resuming service if it requires passengers to be vaccinated. But the law DeSantis signed in Florida would impose a fine of $5,000 per person required to show proof of vaccination, and the governor says he will not back down.
Cruise ships are, of course, a well-known vector for the coronavirus. They inherently pack a lot of people into a confined space, and have terrifyingly high rates of infection. Aside from the public-health ramifications, it’s difficult to imagine cruises luring anything close to their pre-pandemic number of customers without being able to give them the assurance that their fellow passengers will be vaccinated.
The DeSantis position is that both the public interest in suppressing virus transmission, and the private interest of businesses in protecting their workforce and reassuring customers, are overridden by an even more compelling interest: safeguarding the rights of individuals who refuse to get vaccinated.
And keep in mind, nobody is even contemplating requiring anybody to take a vaccine. The question is whether you can refuse the vaccine and still walk into any room you wish, whether or not the owner of that room and the other people there want you. DeSantis believes your right to breathe infected germs on other people trumps every other right at issue.