Florida fines county more than $3.5 million for requiring employees to be vaccinated against COVID

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A Florida county has been fined more than $3.5 million for requiring county employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The state Department of Health issued a press release on Tuesday, saying that Leon County violated the state’s vaccine passport ban 714 instances.

The state despatched a notice of violation to Leon County administrator Vincent Long on October 6, saying that the county’s vaccine requirement for employees is in violation of a state legislation that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis introduced in September. Under the legislation, authorities businesses that pressure a vaccine as a situation of employment can be fined $5,000 for each occasion of doing so. 

DeSantis had mentioned that the legislation was issued in an effort to “stand up for freedom.” 

Leon County first required that each one employees be totally vaccinated against COVID-19 on July 28, in accordance to the state. Employees have been required to present a vaccine verification to the federal government’s human resources division no later than October 1. The state mentioned that 700 county authorities employees offered such documentation, and that inside just a few days, 14 employees have been fired for their refusal or failure to achieve this. 

The county mentioned on October 2 that 30 employees acquired a medical or non secular exemption from the vaccine, and that in all, much less than 2% of employees didn’t show they have been vaccinated.

The 714 violations, the state mentioned, accrued a superb of more than $3.5 million that the county should pay inside 30 days.  

“It is unacceptable that Leon County violated Florida law, infringed on current and former employee’s medical privacy, and fired loyal public servants because of their personal health decisions,” DeSantis mentioned in a statement. “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.” 

According to state data, 60% of Leon County residents ages 12 and older have been vaccinated against COVID-19. From October 1 by means of October 7, the county had 354 instances. As the variety of vaccinated folks within the state continues to improve, the weekly COVID case rely has declined.

Joseph Ladap, the state’s new surgeon common, mentioned in a press release that firing folks over vaccines “has real and lasting consequences.” 

“It leads to resentment in the workplace, and loss of employment impacts individual and public health,” he mentioned in a press release. “Individuals have every right to choose how to best protect themselves and their families.” 

Long, nevertheless, mentioned in a statement on Tuesday that the county’s actions have been mandatory, and developed with info from skilled public well being steerage.

“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,” he mentioned. 

Long mentioned the county is ready to “enforce its rights using any remedies available.” 

“The Governor’s position in this instance unfortunately appears to be less of a public health strategy and more about political strategy,” he mentioned. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and quite a few well being officers have urged the general public to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to curb the unfold. In the workplace, the CDC has recommended the vaccine, whereas additionally saying companies can adhere to medical and non secular exemptions. More than 187.7 million folks have been vaccinated as of Tuesday, in accordance to the CDC, and more than 8.5 million have already acquired a booster dose. 

Li Cohen

Li Cohen is a social media producer and trending reporter for CBS News, specializing in social justice points.