TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Governor Ron DeSantis says Leon County's continued COVID-19 vaccination-based termination policy is "unacceptable" and infringes on medical privacy.
“We are going to protect Florida jobs. We are not going to let people be fired because of a vaccine mandate... And so you don't just cast aside people who've been serving faithfully over this issue over, what's basically a personal choice on their individual health. We cannot let these folks be cast aside. We cannot allow their jobs to be destroyed and their families and livelihoods, potentially, to be destroyed as well. And we've seen places like city of Gainesville, some other places around the state that have basically said, we are going to fire you unless you take a vaccine. Fortunately the state of Florida passed a law, this most recent legislative session, SB 2006, that did a lot of different things. It prevented private businesses from requiring proof of vaccination to just do normal things like go to a movie or go to a restaurant, but that also applied to government agencies. And so if a government agency in the state of Florida forces a vaccine as a condition to employment, that violates Florida law and you will face a $5,000 fine for every single violation. You look at places here in Alachua County, like the city of Gainesville, I mean, that's millions and millions of dollars, and potentially in fines, Orange County, many more than that. … We'd make [vaccines] available for all, but mandatory for none. And that's been the policy that we've had from the beginning.”
-Gov. Ron DeSantis
The Leon County government said it will continue with the ordinance for all county employees to provide proof of receiving a COVID-19 vaccination after the Florida Department of Health sent a letter stating the county was violating state law.
Leon County employees had until 11:59 p.m. October 1, 2021, to submit proof of a COVID-19 vaccine or face termination. Leon County Administrator Vince Long made the vaccine a condition of employment in July.
On Friday, FLDOH sent letters to Leon County and other local Florida governments telling them to rescind those policies.
"Leon County must both rescind its policy (in no event later than 11:59 p.m. on October 1, 2021)... and refrain from terminating any employees who decline to produce proof of vaccination," read the DOH letter to Leon County.
The DOH said fines may be assessed based on each employee required to submit proof of vaccination as a condition of continued employment.
Following leadership from Gov. DeSantis, both the City of Gainesville and Orange County walked back threats to fire workers who do not show their vaccine passports.
"It's safe to assume that any entity that violates state law will face enforcement action," a statement from Gov. DeSantis' office stated. "Under Florida law, the entity would be subject to a fine of $5,000 for each violation of the vaccine passport ban. Every instance where a person is forced to show proof of vaccination as a condition of access to or entry into a government building would constitute a violation of the vaccine passport ban."
The governor's office also said the fines for Leon County would likely apply based on every employee who has already shown proof of vaccination as a condition of employment, as well as those who are terminated for failing to show proof of vaccination.
A spokesperson for the governor said there are no further details available to share at this time about the next steps.