Florida cities and counties that require COVID-19 vaccines for employees could face "millions" in fines, Gov. Ron DeSantis said.
Speaking at a news conference in Alachua County Monday, DeSantis said such mandates would go against a Florida law passed earlier this year that prevents businesses and government agencies from requiring vaccinations.
"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," DeSantis said. "That's millions and millions of dollars potentially in fines."
DeSantis said the decision to get vaccinated is a "personal choice about individual health" that should be made by the employees themselves.
"We are gonna stand for the men and women who are serving us, we're gonna protect Florida jobs, we are not gonna let people be fired because of a vaccine mandate," DeSantis said.
Some local municipalities, such as Orange County and the city of Gainesville, have implemented a requirement that their employees get a COVID-19 vaccine.
Gainesville spokesperson Shelby Taylor said the city stood by its decision.
“It is our belief that as an employer we retain the right to require vaccination as a condition of employment," Taylor said in an email.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody on Monday filed a brief in support of city employees who are challenging Gainesville's vaccine requirement in court.
In Florida's largest county, Miami-Dade, the police department requires any potential new police officer or new hire under the mayor’s authority to be vaccinated. All current employees are required to get tested regularly, but those who are vaccinated can opt out.
“We are doing our part to follow the science and to prevent the spread of COVID across our community while protecting county employees – particularly those in frontline jobs who are especially vulnerable to the virus," said Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.
At a news conference, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, a Democrat, said that he believed many of the decisions the Republican governor makes are politically motivated and that the county “would deal" with DeSantis' threat, either through the courts or another manner.
“It could be a lot of money, yes, not question about it," Demings said. “At the end of the day, it is our goal to protect the people in our greater community, to keep them safe, which is a fundamental role of government."
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