A county in Florida has been slapped with a $3.5 million fine after county officials enforced a vaccine mandate for 714 employees, and then fired 14 employees who refused to get a shot.
The Florida Department of Health said Leon County has until November 5 to pay a $3.57 million penalty.
County administrator Vince Long had ordered all 714 of the county’s employees to provide proof of vaccination, or apply for a few exemptions.
In September Governor Ron DeSantis vowed to fine cities and counties $5,000 for each worker who is required to get a COVID vaccine.
Leon County has now been fined $5,000 for each of the 714 workers.
In September Governor Ron DeSantis (pictured) vowed to fine cities and counties $5,000 for each worker who is required to get a COVID vaccine
Leon County Administrator Vincent Long (pictured) said the vaccine mandate was legal and criticized DeSantis putting politics over public health
DeSantis said that vaccine mandates violate state law, pointing to a bill he signed in May that ‘bans governmental entities in Florida from requiring proof of vaccination or post-infection recovery to gain access to, entry upon, or service from their operations,’ according to MSNBC.
Division Director Douglas Woodlief said that Leon County had 30 days to pay the $3.57 million fine and in a statement on Tuesday DeSantis said that Leon County’s vaccine mandate ‘unacceptable.’
‘It is unacceptable that Leon County violated Florida law, infringed on current and former employees’ medical privacy, and fired loyal public servants because of their personal health decisions,’ DeSantis said in a statement.
‘We will continue fighting for Floridians’ rights and the Florida Department of Health will continue to enforce the law. We’re going to stand up for Floridians’ jobs, stand up for Floridians’ livelihoods, and stand up for freedom,’ he added.
But Leon County Administrator Vincent Long said the vaccine mandate was legal and criticized DeSantis putting politics over public health.
‘The County strongly contends that our employee vaccination requirement was not only completely legally justifiable, but it was a necessary and responsible action to take to keep our employees safe, protect the public, and ensure our readiness as a frontline response organization,’ Long told CNN in a statement.
Long added that DeSantis’ position ‘unfortunately appears to be less of a public health strategy and more about political strategy’ and the county ‘fully intends to enforce its rights using any remedies available to settle all arguments about the applicability of the statute at issue.’
Long’s statement echoed White House press secretary Jen Psaki’s accusation that DeSantis and Texas’ Greg Abbott of ‘putting politics over public health’ by banning vaccine mandates.
She called out the conservative governors after Abbott followed DeSantis’ lead and banned all Covid-19 vaccine mandates through executive order on Monday after President Biden had issued his own executive order requiring employers with over 100 workers to mandate the jabs.
‘Governor Abbott’s executive order banning mandates and, I would also note announcement by Governor DeSantis this morning essentially banning implementation of mandates fit a familiar pattern that we’ve seen of putting politics ahead of public health.’
In September, Florida reported its deadliest peak in daily death rates since the start of the pandemic after the state reported to the CDC more than 1,338 new deaths that occurred over several days or weeks.