TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – Florida imposed its first fine on a county it said violated a new state law banning coronavirus vaccination warrants and for firing 14 workers who failed managed to get vaccinated.
The Florida Department of Health on Tuesday fined Leon County, home to the state capital, $ 3.5 million, saying the city violated Florida’s “passport for vaccines” law. , Which prohibits businesses and governments from requiring people to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
“These are people who presumably have served all this time and now all of a sudden they’re basically being laid off,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a St. Pete Beach.
The governor later tweeted: “No one should lose their job because of the COVID shootings. “
The law came into effect last month and can result in a fine of $ 5,000 per offense. It is being challenged in court and conflicts with an order by the Biden administration that companies with more than 100 employees require their workers to be vaccinated or be tested weekly.
In a statement, Leon County Administrator Vincent Long said the county believes its vaccination requirement is legally justifiable and necessary to keep people safe.
“The governor’s position in this case unfortunately appears to be less of a public health strategy than a political one,” he said.
Tallahassee Democratic lawmakers scoffed at the decision to impose a fine, saying local governments should have the power to protect their residents as they see fit.
“Amazing! We don’t need the state to intimidate our communities or our private businesses that are just trying to serve the people and get to the other side of this pandemic,” said Florida Senator Loranne Ausley.
In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott on Monday issued an executive order banning any entity, including a private company, from applying a COVID-19 vaccine mandate to workers and called on state lawmakers to enact a similar ban.
At the White House on Tuesday, press secretary Jen Psaki compared the actions of the governors of Florida and Texas.
“Gov. Abbott’s executive order banning warrants and I would also like to note Gov. DeSantis’s announcement this morning, essentially, banning the implementation of warrants, fits a familiar pattern we’ve seen putting politics ahead of health. public, ”Psaki said at a briefing. .
The decision to fine Leon County comes a day after the Orlando Sentinel reported that the state of Florida was investigating dozens of local governments, performing arts centers, the Miami Marlins, a unit counterterrorism campaign and a concert by singer Harry Styles for alleged violations. of the law.
About 120 cases are under review for violations, according to a public records request from the Orlando Sentinel.
In central Florida, the list includes the Orange County government; the Orange County Convention Center; AdventHealth, one of the state’s largest healthcare systems; several performing arts venues; and the Amway Center, which is home to the Orlando Magic and recently hosted a concert by Styles whose tour required attendees to be vaccinated or test negative for COVID-19.
“At this point (…) the courts have not made the final decision, but it appears Florida law goes against our Florida Constitution and possibly common sense,” said Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings. .
In South Florida, those under investigation by the Florida Department of Health include the Marlins, the only major sports team on the list; the city of Miramar; the plantation police service; and several performance halls.
Also on the list, statewide, is a counterterrorism unit from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in Jacksonville; the Gasparilla Music Festival in Tampa; and the Mayor of Gainesville, Lauren Poe. Several cruise ship companies were also on the list despite a federal court order preventing the law from being enforced against Norwegian Cruise Lines.