A Florida county that sought to enforce a COVID-19 vaccine passport rule is being rapped across the wallet by state officials.
Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has banned vaccine passports and other vaccine mandates in the state. Despite that action, Leon County imposed a vaccine mandate on its 714 employees, eventually firing 14 who did not comply.
As a result, the state is fining Leon County $3.57 million, according to a release Tuesday on the state health department’s website.
“The County’s illegal employee vaccine mandate results in 714 counts of violating law,” reads one of the headlines in the release.
“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 the release.
“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.”
Cases in Florida are down 88% in the past 1.5 months with no new statewide policy — no mask mandate or vaccine passports
In fact, they’re now tied for 48th in the country in current case rate
I’m sure any day now the media will be crediting DeSantis for bringing the curve down pic.twitter.com/vSQhQCh9Yq
— IM (@ianmSC) October 9, 2021
Dr. Joseph Ladapo, Florida’s surgeon general, said the state is working to allow Florida residents to make their own decisions without mandates.
Are vaccine mandates and vaccine passports wrong?
“Firing hard working employees over vaccine passports has real and lasting consequences. It leads to resentment in the workplace, and loss of employment impacts individual and public health,” Ladapo said in the release.
“Individuals have every right to choose how to best protect themselves and their families, and the Department will continue to enforce this law.”
Leon County Administrator Vincent Long said the county was acting responsibly, according to CBS.
“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 said Tuesday in a statement.
Leon County has been ordered to pay the $3.57 million fine within 30 days, according to CBS.
Long said in the statement that the county will “enforce its rights using any remedies available.”
He accused DeSantis of playing politics with his actions.
“The Governor’s position in this instance unfortunately appears to be less of a public health strategy and more about political strategy,” Long said.
In comments made before the imposition of the fine, DeSantis said workers need protection from intrusive edicts.
“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,” he said, according to WTXL-TV.
“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.”