OPINION: USF should defy DeSantis, mandate masks and vaccine passports

A cruise line and two Florida school districts are defying Gov. Ron DeSantis’ many legal actions to prohibit vaccine passports and mask mandates, respectively, and USF should follow suit for the safety of the community. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/Flickr

Norwegian Gem was the first cruise to directly challenge Gov. Ron DeSantis’ vaccine passport ban and win Aug. 8, setting a precedent not only for future cruise lines, but all Florida institutions restricted by ridiculous legal actions from the governor. 

This could pave the way for other institutions, like USF, to prioritize the safety of its population by ensuring attendees to large events be fully vaccinated or wear masks, such as Week of Welcome events, college football games and Homecoming festivities.

On May 3, the vaccine passport ban SB 2006 was officially signed and enacted by DeSantis, which he said was to prevent unequal treatment of vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers. To enforce this upon institutions, offenders could be fined up to $5,000 per violation, or for every person that has their vaccine card checked.

Judge Kathleen Williams, who presided over the case, wrote in a 60-page ruling Florida failed to “provide a valid evidentiary, factual or legal predicate” that would constitute prohibiting proof of vaccinations.

USF currently is unable to require or enforce masks because of Executive Order 21-175 that prohibits mask mandates at public institutions. The university opted to say students and faculty are “expected” to wear one instead, according to an Aug. 13 universitywide email.

However, with the new variants such as delta emerging, USF and other institutions should use this ruling from Norwegian Gem as an opportunity. Winning such a case against the state of Florida is a huge win for the cruise line, and it will undoubtedly set a precedent for upcoming legal battles.

Broward and Alachua County Schools are already defying the executive order and requiring masks in K-12 classrooms with verbal support from President Joe Biden. He called Broward Interim Superintendent Vickie Cartwright on Aug. 13 and offered financial resources to her county if DeSantis withholds funding, according to the Miami Herald. 

USF could also consider defying the order and force a mask mandate or force vaccine passports to be required for certain events if Biden takes action to support Florida public schools.

The university should either defy the executive order or take the state of Florida to court to ensure students can safely enjoy festivities the upcoming fall semester has in store for them.