Florida Fines Leon County $3.5m for Pushing Vaccine Mandate
The state government of Florida issued a $3.5 million fine to Leon County. The charge? It seemed that Leon County violated the state’s vaccine passport ban a whopping 714 times. The county also required county employees to get vaccines against COVID-19.
RELATED: Florida Will Issue $5,000 Fines for Requiring Proof of COVID Vaccine
Leon County Issued Notice Of Violation
The state government sent a notice of violation to Leon County administrator Vincent Long last October 6. The notice said that the county’s current vaccine mandate for employees is in violation of state law.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced the signing of an executive order banning vaccine mandates last September. Under the law, government agencies that force employees to take vaccines will receive a $5,000 fine for every violation. DeSantis insisted that he supported the law to “stand up for freedom.”
Meanwhile, Leon County required county employees to receive full vaccinations on July 28. The local government required workers to show proof of vaccination to the county Human Resources department by October 1.
A total of 700 county employees submitted the documentation before the deadline. In addition, Leon County fired 14 employees who refused the vaccines.
Also, 30 employees received a medical or religious exemption from the vaccine. This brought the total of unvaccinated employees in Leon County to less than 2% of the workforce.
$3.5 Million In Fines
As a result of Leon county’s blatant disregard of the state order, the 714 violations toted $3.5 million in fines. The county needs to pay the whole amount within 30 days of receipt of the notice.
In a statement, Governor DeSantis criticized Leon county for their move. “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.
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,” he said.
Leon County Posts 60% Vaccination Rate
According to Florida health data, Leon County has a 60% vaccination rate among residents aged 12 or older. Between October 1 to 7 the county reported 354 COVID-19 cases. Due to its high vaccination rate, weekly COVID cases continue to decline in the county.
However, state officials defended the decision to fine Leon county. New Florida surgeon general Joseph Ladap issued a statement on the matter.
He said that firing people over vaccines leads to real and lasting consequences. “It leads to resentment in the workplace, and loss of employment impacts individual and public health. Individuals have every right to choose how to best protect themselves and their families,” he said.
County Administrator Defends Their Decision
Meanwhile, Long also defended Leon’s position. In a statement Tuesday, he said that the county’s actions were necessary. They also developed their policy using information from expert public health guidance.
“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 said.
In addition, the administrator said that they are prepared to enforce their rights using any available remedies. “The Governor's position in this instance, unfortunately, appears to be less of a public health strategy and more about political strategy,” he said.
Watch the WTXL Tallahassee video reporting that Leon County stands behind vaccine mandate after FDOH issues fines:
Do you agree with fining counties that impose vaccine mandates and passports in defiance of state law? Or, should Leon county seek relief from the fines?
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