First it was school districts requiring masks; now local governments requiring vaccines are in Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' crosshairs. DeSantis on Monday announced the state will fine municipal governments with COVID-19 vaccine mandates for their employees, WFLA reports. Some cities and counties could be on the hook for millions, the Tampa Bay Times reports, since they will be fined $5,000 per employee affected by the mandates. Under state law, neither businesses nor local governments can require proof of vaccination "to gain access to, entry upon, or service from the governmental entity’s operations." However, that law does not cover vaccine mandates for workers, and it's not clear how the fines will be enforced.
"We are not going to let people get fired because of the vaccine mandate," DeSantis said in announcing the fines. "You don’t just cast aside people who have been serving faithfully over this issue, over what’s basically a personal choice over their individual health." Localities including Orange County, where Orlando is located and which has thousands of employees, have instituted vaccine mandates. It's not clear whether the fines will apply to other counties, including Miami-Dade, that require either vaccination or weekly testing. It's also not clear how the fines will apply to private businesses with vaccine mandates for employees, such as Walt Disney World and some cruise lines, but a DeSantis rep says, "Regarding private businesses, we’re looking at all legal options to protect the rights of employees."
As Insider reports, a city employee in Gainesville, which is requiring workers be vaccinated, spoke at DeSantis' press conference announcing the fines and said, "The vaccine changes your RNA, so, for me, that's a problem." The COVID vaccines that use mRNA technology do no such thing, but DeSantis let the false statement, which was met with cheers, stand. Asked by the media outlet later about the comment, which is linked to a conspiracy theory, one of his reps said the governor "has never said the vaccine changes your RNA, nor is that his opinion." DeSantis has been vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson shot. (Read more Florida stories.)