Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday that the state will punish county and city governments for requiring their employees to get vaccinated against Covid-19, threatening a $5,000 fine for each violation.
DeSantis, calling it a way to “protect Florida jobs,” said at a news conference that “you don’t just cast aside people who’ve been serving faithfully over this issue — over what’s basically a personal choice on their individual health.”
The fines — which could cost some Florida counties potentially considerable sums — underscore the broad Republican resistance to President Joe Biden’s latest effort to rein in the pandemic by imposing stringent new vaccine rules on federal workers, large employers and health care staff.
Biden directed the Labor Department last week to require that all businesses with 100 or more employees ensure their workers are either vaccinated or tested once a week for the virus. Companies could face thousands of dollars in fines per employee if they don’t comply. The President also signed an executive order requiring all government employees be vaccinated against Covid-19, with no option of being regularly tested to opt out.
Businesses that want employees to return to work and stay at work will benefit from vaccine requirements, US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said. The mandate will benefit employees as well, he added. “I believe that will not only improve public health, but it will give people some more peace of mind,” Murthy told CNN on Sunday.
But DeSantis said Monday that the mandates are a violation of a new Florida law passed during the state’s most recent legislative session that prevents private businesses from requiring proof of vaccination but also applies to government agencies.
“So if you look at places here in Alachua County, like the city of Gainesville, I mean that’s millions and millions of dollars potentially in fines. Orange County — many, many more than that,” DeSantis said, adding that “the net result of Biden’s policy is you’re going to have good, hardworking people lose their jobs, and they’re going to lose their jobs in very key industries.”
“I just think it’s fundamentally wrong. We should not be allowing the federal government to attack people’s livelihoods,” he said.
Florida is one of a handful of states with ICU bed capacity at less than 10%, according to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services. The national average was around 20% availability as of Thursday.
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