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Leon, Orange Mandate Employee Shots; Miami-Dade Requires Masks Indoors

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Wilfredo Lee
The Florida Channel
In this Monday, April 5, 2021, file photo, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava holds up her mask as she speaks during a news conference, in Miami.

Leon is forcing its employees to be vaccinated or be fired. Meantime, Orange is requiring its nonunion workers to get the shots and Miami-Dade is mandating indoors masks in county buildings.

Leon County is requiring all employees to get vaccinated for COVID-19 or be fired. And the mayors of Miami-Dade and Orange counties announced their own mask and vaccine mandates for county facilities.

Leon County Administrator Vince Long said he's not concerned about blowback from Gov. Ron DeSantis' office. DeSantis is against vaccine mandates and a new law gives the governor the power to invalidate local measures and block government entities from requiring vaccinations.

The counties' actions comes as Florida undergoes a major surge in COVID cases and hospitalizations. And they follow the release of updated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines recommending that even people vaccinated against COVID-19 should wear masks.

In a statement issued late Wednesday, Long announced the requirement that Leon County employees get vaccinated by Oct. 1 or be terminated.

The county said its authority to mandate vaccinations comes through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and that the shots qualify as a condition for employment.

"It’s my belief the days of doughnut giveaways and gift cards as an incentive to become vaccinated — those days are over. And I think more and more employers will have to consider what’s right for them. Again, as a frontline governmental agency, this is the decision I believe strongly is the right one for us and our community," Long said in an interview with WFSU.

The county is allowing waivers for employees who can’t get vaccinated due to a medical condition, disability or religious belief. Employees granted exemptions will be required to wear masks.

Meantime, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings is requiring all 4,200 nonunion county employees get their first COVID-19 shot by the end of August. Requirements for union county employees must be bargained.

Orange is again under a state of emergecy. Demings, who recently said the county is in "crisis mode," said the community needs to pull together to keep businesses running and prevent an economic collapse.

“We are therefore pleading that businesses and other public sector employers mandate that your employees get vaccinated and patrons and employees alike wear masks,” said Demings.

Masks are now required inside Orange County buildings, and county employees must get their first COVID vaccination if they haven’t already.

However, Demings said the new law prevents him from mandating masks indoors across the county.

“I’m taking the action that I believe that is legally defensible today, and a measured approach, based upon this community that I know the best. When we have pleaded with them to follow the recommendations that we have put in place, they have done so.”

In Miami-Dade County, where the COVID positivity rate is now at 10 percent, Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said masks will again be required at indoor county facilities.

“The numbers are clear,” Levine Cava said at a news conference in downtown Miami. “We hope that businesses will do the right thing."

Information from the Associated Press, News Service of Florida, WFSU, WMFE and WLRN partner the Miami Herald was used in this report.

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Originally founded in December 2006 as an independent grassroots publication dedicated to coverage of health issues in Florida, Health News Florida was acquired by WUSF Public Media in September 2012.