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Health News Florida
News about coronavirus in Florida and around the world is constantly emerging. It's hard to stay on top of it all but Health News Florida can help. Our responsibility is to keep you informed, and to help discern what’s important for your family as you make what could be life-saving decisions.

DeSantis Threatens Local Governments With $5,000 Fines For Requiring Employee Vaccines

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis answers questions related to school openings and the wearing of masks in Surfside on Aug. 10, 2021.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said it's wrong that first responders and other government employees could get fired for not getting the vaccine.

DeSantis said a new law allowing him to invalidate local emergency measures gives him the power to issue the fines, although the measure does not prohibit requiring workers from getting the shot.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has threatened local governments with $5,000 fines per violation for requiring employees to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

In a Monday news conference in Alachua County, DeSantis said municipalities potentially face millions of dollars in fines for implementing a vaccine requirement.

DeSantis said a new law allowing him to invalidate local emergency measures gives him the power to issue the fines, although the measure does not prohibit requiring workers from getting the shot. That law bans private businesses and government agencies from requiring customers to prove they're vaccinated.

Gainesville officials say they still are going ahead with the vaccine requirements. More than 200 city employees, including police and firefighters, have filed a lawsuit claiming the mandate violates the new law. State Attorney General Ashley filed a brief Monday in support of the challenge.

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings has ordered that county employees must be partially vaccinated by Sept. 30 and fully by Oct. 31.

Speaking later at a news conference in Tampa, DeSantis said it's wrong that first responders and other government employees could get fired for not getting the vaccine.

"People that have put in 10, 15, 20 years, and now they're just going to get cast aside by some onerous mandate? That is wrong, and so we let it be known today, we're going to be enforcing Florida law against that," DeSantis said.

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor announced last month that about 4,700 city employees have until Sept. 30 to get the vaccine or show a medical or religious reason why they can't. Those who do not would have to get tested every week and wear an N-95 mask.

Leon County has given its employees until Oct. 1 to get vaccinated or get a medical or religious exemption. After that, unvaccinated employees could lose their jobs. In a statement responding to DeSantis, County Administrator Vince Long said the requirement will remain.

"Unfortunately, and despite the tireless efforts of public health professionals, political rhetoric continues to dangerously exacerbate the fear and confusion about vaccinations," he said. "In a public health emergency, clarity of information remains critical. This is why it is necessary that I clarify that vaccinations as a condition of employment in Leon County is legal and will remain in effect. We will continue to act responsibly to ensure our operational readiness to respond to the needs of our community and to keep our employees safe,"

DeSantis also took issue with recent vaccine mandates announced by President Joe Biden requiring vaccinations for some public and private employees, including health care workers.

“It's beyond just the mandate. What they've been doing throughout all of COVID, they go back and find some statute from decades ago, they find some obscure regulation, and then they take that as a pretext to be able to do ridiculous, unforeseen expansions of government power,” DeSantis said.

Florida has been a national epicenter for the virus’s spread this summer, accounting for more than 20% of the COVID-related deaths across the country last week.

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber, whose city is requiring vaccinations for new employees, questioned DeSantis’ stand.

“You do not need a law degree to know this is idiotic and we’re not going to let somebody, including unfortunately our own governor, put our residents in danger,” he said.

Information from Health News Florida staff, WFSU's Regan McCarthy and News Service of Florida was used in this report.

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