DeSantis admin. to start fining cities, counties that require employees to get COVID vaccine

Published: Sep. 13, 2021 at 4:18 PM EDT
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MIAMI, Fla. (CBSMiami/AP) – Governor Ron DeSantis has announced that his administration will start issuing $5,000 fines to cities and counties that require their workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

“These mandates are overreaches and they will be really destructive to a lot of good people. So we’re on board to fight back both in terms in any of the government, with our law being applied and the fines, but then anything involving the private, we’re going to be providing protections for people because people should not face a choice of losing their jobs,” said DeSantis at a campaign-style news conference on Monday.

The fines issued will be per violation.

The governor said a new law passed this year that prohibits businesses, local governments, and schools from requiring customers, residents, and students from showing proof of vaccination.

The law, however, does not specifically prohibit those entities from requiring workers to get vaccinated.

Municipalities, such as Orange County and the city of Gainesville, potentially face millions of dollars in cumulative fines for implementing a requirement that their employees get a COVID-19 vaccine

“We are not going to let people be fired because of a vaccine mandate,” DeSantis said at the news conference outside Gainesville. “You don’t just cast aside people who have been serving faithfully over this issue, over what is basically a personal choice on their individual health.”

Florida has been a national epicenter for the virus’s spread this summer, with COVID-19 deaths in Florida accounting for more than 20% of the virus-related deaths across the country last week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

At the news conference, DeSantis called on several local government workers from central Florida to explain why they didn’t want to get a vaccine at the risk of losing their jobs. Several offered false conspiracy theories about the vaccines, which medical experts have said are safe and highly effective.

Many of the municipalities requiring employees to get vaccinated offer exemptions for medical or religious reasons.

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.

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, no 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.”

DeSantis is running for reelection next year and is widely seen as a potential candidate to be the GOP’s presidential nominee in 2024.

His remarks were his latest throwing down the gauntlet at local authorities’ efforts to implement COVID-19 measures. The state Department of Education has docked the salaries of school board members in Alachua and Broward counties for defying the governor by implementing mask mandates. A total of 13 school boards currently are ignoring the mask mandate ban.

Copyright 2021 CBSMiami. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.