Florida Gov. The Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is moving forward with plans for penalizing local governments that have Covid-19 mandates in place. On Monday, the mayor of Orange County (which includes Orlando) said that he received a letter from state threats to the county with fines.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a news conference held in Viera, Florida. SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
The Key Facts
At a Monday press conference, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings stated that he received a letter from the Florida Department of Health at 4:52 PM Friday. It claimed that the vaccine mandate was discriminatory and violated Floridians' fundamental rights. Demings also said that the overwhelming majority of employees had complied with the mandate. The Department of Health claims that the mandate for vaccines is against a Florida state statute. This prohibits government entities from requiring proof of Covid-19 vaccination. Otherwise, they face a $5,000 fine per infraction. If local governments are fined each employee could amount to millions of dollars. According to Forbes, a copy of the letter reveals that the department informed Demings that the county is now subjected to the fines due to its vaccine policy. Forbes was also asked by the department to provide an immediate list of employees covered by the vaccine policy. Demings stated Monday that the county attorney would review the letter and respond, but that he would not change his stance on the vaccine policy. He also said that the matter would be brought up in court.
Demings stated that the vaccine mandate that we have implemented was legal. He also mentioned that the threat from the state may have political undertones from Republican DeSantis. However, he noted that taxpayers would be the ones punished as their money would be used for any state-imposed fines.
What to Watch
Orange County, Florida is among several Florida local governments that impose vaccine mandates to its employees. However, it was the first to hear from the state about the fines. The Florida Department of Health has yet to respond to a request to comment on whether any letters were sent out to other local governments or when the agency plans to proceed with imposing fines.
In mid-September, DeSantis had announced that his administration would punish local governments with vaccine mandates. He also stated that he was going to block any Covid-19 mitigation measures such as lockdowns and mask mandates. The Florida government also prevented local governments from enforcing mask orders, which some have violated. It has also withheld funding from several school districts that have imposed school-mask mandates despite a ban at the state level.
Florida also used its ban against providing proof of vaccination as a way to block cruise ships being required to carry Covid-19 vaccines despite protests by both passengers and the cruise industry. However, the state has lost this fight as a judge ruled that Norwegian Cruise Line could require proof of vaccination, despite the state's policy. Other cruise lines have followed that ruling.
What we don't know
Whether DeSantis administration will similarly try to go after private employers that require proof of vaccinationparticularly Disney, which has imposed a vaccine mandate for its employees and has a significant presence in Florida. Walt Disney World is the nation's largest single-site employer. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the state government has not yet stated whether it plans to fine private companies. Christina Pushaw, spokesperson for DeSantis, said that they are looking into all legal options to protect employees' rights regarding private businesses.
DeSantis claims that local governments could face huge fines if COVID vaccines are mandated for workers (Orlando Sentinel).
DeSantis threatens Orange County (Orlando Sentinel).
Biden Administration Pays Money to Florida Schools for Imposing Mask Mandates Against State Rules.
Florida Gov. DeSantis Blocks All Local Covid-19 Orders, including Mask Mandates (Forbes).
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