Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has threatened local governments with a $5,000 fine per violation to require their employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, which has decimated hospitals across the state.
The Republican governor said local municipalities such as Orange County and the city of Gainesville potentially face cumulative fines of millions of dollars for failing to provide a COVID-19 vaccine to their employees.
Many municipalities that require employees to get vaccinated for medical or religious reasons offer exemptions.
Gainesville spokeswoman Shelby Taylor said the city stood by its decision.
“It is our belief that as an employer we uphold 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 he believed many decisions made by Republican governors were politically motivated and that the county would, either through the courts or in some other way, rely on DeSantis. Will “solve” the threat.
“It could be a lot of money, yeah, no question about it,” Demings said. “At the end of the day, it’s our goal to protect, keep people safe in our large community, which is a fundamental role of government.”
DeSantis is running for re-election next year and is widely seen as a potential candidate for the GOP’s presidency in 2024.
Earlier this year, DeSantis signed legislation prohibiting proof of vaccination from businesses or governments receiving services. He also issued an order restraining local governments from imposing restrictions to stem the spread of the virus.
DeSantis’ remarks on Monday were his latest comment on local authorities’ efforts to enforce COVID-19 measures. The state education department has docked the salaries of school board members in Alachua and Broward counties for defying the governor by enforcing the mask mandate. A total of 13 school boards are currently ignoring the mask mandate ban.