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 statement on Tuesday, saying that Leon County violated the state’s vaccine passport ban 714 times.
The Hill is reporting that Leon County government was fined $3.57 million for what the Florida Department of Health called a “blatant violation of the law relating to the ban of vaccine passports in our state.” The fine must be paid within 30 days.
“It is unacceptable that Leon County violated Florida law, infringed on current and former employees’ medical privacy, and fired loyal public servants because of their personal health decisions,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) said in the announcement of the fine.
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,” DeSantis added.
Leon County is located in the Florida panhandle and its county seat is Tallahassee, the capital of Florida. Leon County first required that all county employees be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 on July 28, according to the state.
Employees were required to provide a vaccine verification to the government’s human resources department no later than October 1. The state said that 700 county government employees provided such documentation and that within a few days, 14 employees were fired for their refusal or failure to do so.
Joseph Ladap, the state’s new surgeon general, said in a statement that firing people over vaccines “has real and lasting consequences.”
“It leads to resentment in the workplace, and loss of employment impacts individual and public health,” he said in a statement. “Individuals have every right to choose how to best protect themselves and their families.”
On Tuesday, White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said the administration stands by vaccine requirements, including in states that oppose them.
“I think it’s pretty clear when you make a choice that’s against all public health information and data out there that it’s not based on what is in the interest of the people you are governing,” Psaki said, reports The Guardian. “It’s perhaps in the interest of your own politics.”
The Leon county administrator, Vincent S Long, said in a statement that the county would use “any remedies available” to settle its dispute with the state.
Long said: “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.”