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PBC eases COVID-19 mask mandate as Florida drops residency requirement for vaccinations

"DeSantis said in January that he wanted to cut down on "vaccine tourism" as people from outside Florida came to the state seeking shots.

"What we don't want is tourists, foreigners," he said the day Rivkees issued the order. About 3.5% of injections had entered the arms out-of-state residents at the time, and fell to 2.4% Thursday, health department reports show.

The January orders required vaccine seekers to show documents such as state-issued IDs or pieces of mail with their name on it.

"It is shameful that residency requirements were put in place to create obstacles for folks seeking to receive this lifesaving vaccine," the Rev. Frank O'Loughlin, executive director of the Guatemalan-Maya Center in Lake Worth Beach, said Saturday in a statement...

Few seniors 65 and older living in Palm Beach County's non-English speaking communities received vaccinations in part because of those requirements, a Palm Beach Post analysis last month found.

And advocates for immigrants said for months that the DeSantis-backed residency requirements made it tough for undocumented people living and working in Florida to get vaccinated because they lack the papers proving they live here.

"Under the guise of stopping ‘vaccine tourism,’ Florida discriminated against undocumented farmworkers by limiting vaccine access to those who had a driver’s license or who could prove they were ‘seasonal residents’ who left the state every year," Andrew Case, attorney for LatinoJustice, said Saturday in a statement.

The Guatemalan-Maya Center spent months begging DeSantis to prioritize farmworkers — most of whom are immigrants — in his vaccine rollout, including with an open letter from one migrant farmhand, Frances Delgado, published February by the nonprofit.

"Essential farmworkers do not have these documents, so where does that leave them at the end?" Delgado wrote. "Discrimination is what I see here."

Some agencies, such as Palm Beach County's state-run health department, vaccinated undocumented immigrants who could provide letters from churches and advocates such as the Guatemalan-Maya Center vouching for their claim that they live in the state. Such documents were not covered by the state's restrictions."

Read full article in the Palm Beach Post here.

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