Florida fines county $3.5 million for requiring proof of vaccination

The Florida Well being Division fined a county authorities over $3.5 million Tuesday for violating the state’s ban on vaccination passports — the primary time the state has punished a locality for defying the ban.

The Well being Division mentioned in an announcement that officers in Leon County, the place Tallahassee, the state capital, is situated, violated state legislation after they mandated in late July that the county’s 700 staff present proof of vaccination no later than Oct. 1. Then, on Oct. 4, county officers fired 14 staff for failing to adjust to the requirement.

“It’s unacceptable that Leon County violated Florida legislation, infringed on present and former staff’ medical privateness, and fired loyal public servants due to their private well being choices,” Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, mentioned in a assertion.

DeSantis, who has persistently resisted masks and vaccination mandates whilst case numbers rise, signed a invoice in Could to ban vaccination passports — notably banning native governments from requiring any individual, together with an worker, to offer proof of vaccination. The legislation, which took impact final month, additionally supplies for fines of $5,000 per violation.

Leon County Administrator Vincent Lengthy mentioned in a assertion Tuesday that the county believes its vaccination requirement is “legally justifiable” and essential to preserve the general public secure.

“The governor’s place on this occasion sadly seems to be much less of a public well being technique and extra about political technique,” he mentioned. “Leon County absolutely intends to implement its rights utilizing any cures obtainable to settle all arguments concerning the applicability of the statute at situation in order that we will proceed to direct our full and undivided consideration on combating the virus, defending our staff and residents, and fulfilling our obligations to our group.”

DeSantis has been underneath constant scrutiny by critics for his dealing with of the coronavirus pandemic, and he has additionally taken warmth from the White Home over his resistance to implementing stringent public security pointers.

Different GOP-led states, akin to Texas and Montana, have additionally enacted legal guidelines in opposition to mandating masks, vaccinations and proof of vaccination. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed an government order Monday banning any entity within the state, together with personal employers, from requiring Covid vaccinations.

White Home press secretary Jen Psaki instructed reporters Tuesday that DeSantis and Abbott are “placing politics forward of public well being.”

“Over 700,000 American lives have been misplaced on account of Covid-19, together with greater than 56,000 in Florida and over 68,000 in Texas,” she mentioned. “And each chief needs to be centered on supporting efforts to save lots of lives and finish the pandemic.”

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