Health Department fines Leon County $3.57M for vax mandate
Dr. Joseph Ladapo and Ron DeSantis. Image via Colin Hackley.

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Leon County is the first to draw fines for flouting the state's vaccine passport ban.

The Health Department has fined Leon County $3.57 million for violating the state vaccine passport ban.

Under guidance from Gov. Ron DeSantis, DOH and Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo found 714 instances, each fined at $5,000, in which the department said the county violated the ban on vaccine requirements. The county ultimately fired 14 employees on Oct. 4 after County Administrator Vince Long issued an Oct. 1 deadline for government workers to get a COVID-19 shot.

“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,” DeSantis said Tuesday. “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.”

Long shot back against the Governor in a statement, calling the move political and hinting at upcoming legal action.

“It’s obvious to me that the Governor’s position here is political strategy which has nothing to do with the positions we’ve taken,” Long said. “The Governor’s response to that is unfortunate, and we plan to assert our legal rights to support the actions we’ve taken, which we believe are not only completely legally justifiable but are the most responsible thing we could do in this case in keeping with all of the public health guidance.”

DeSantis agreed vaccines have become a political issue. However, he pointed blame at the federal government.

“Unfortunately, this has become about politicians wanting to control people,” he said.

His administration’s position is about individual rights and protecting against discrimination, he continued.

“These are people that have been working on our behalf for the whole dang time, and now, all of a sudden, they’re going to get tossed to the curb,” DeSantis said.

Lawmakers passed the vaccine passport ban and accompanying $5,000 fines in a broader bill (SB 2006), which DeSantis signed in May, limiting the state and local governments’ emergency powers. The DeSantis administration called Leon County’s actions a “blatant violation” of that law.

“Firing hard working employees over vaccine passports has real and lasting consequences. It leads to resentment in the workplace, and loss of employment impacts individual and public health,” Ladapo said. “Individuals have every right to choose how to best protect themselves and their families, and the Department will continue to enforce this law.”

Leon County is not the first local government to draw the state’s attention for its vaccine requirements. At a rally in Alachua County last month, DeSantis and other Republican leaders, such as Attorney General Ashley Moody, applied pressure to Gainesville, which had planned a vaccine mandate for city workers. Gainesville ultimately backed down following a temporary ruling from a state court, and the Governor’s Office claimed victory.

“I appreciate Governor DeSantis’ administration and the Department of Health taking this action against Leon County. People should not be forced to choose between a job and their medical freedom. Leon County’s government continues to find ways to waste taxpayer money that serves no purpose for the county,” said Leon County Republican Party Chairman Evan Power.

Through Friday, only 60% of people 12 or older in Leon County have received at least one shot, below the state average of 72%. There have been 49,917 cases of COVID-19 in the county, among 303,541 total residents.

Most first responders have already caught and recovered from the virus, DeSantis asserted. Federal guidance on vaccine requirements don’t consider prior infection, another point of contention for the Governor.

DeSantis has repeatedly railed against the Biden administration for its vaccine policies and guidance, referring to President Joe Biden by name on Tuesday. “Coercion” is destroying trust in public health, he continued.

“I think you’re going to end up driving people away who … may have been willing to do it,” DeSantis said. “But instead, the minute you’re threatened, I think a lot of people just say, forget about it.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Tuesday afternoon said policies from DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott “fit a familiar pattern of putting politics over public health.” Policies in both states and elsewhere targeting vaccine mandates are “out of step with a history of vaccine requirements.”

Psaki also doubled down on plans to use the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to require vaccines at large companies across the country. That statement drew comment from DeSantis Press Secretary Christina Pushaw.

“This is downright disturbing. It’s as if the Biden administration believes we live in a bio-fascist dictatorship, and the existence of the U.S. Constitution is ‘right wing misinformation.’ Florida will keep fighting for freedom,” she tweeted.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


11 comments

  • tjb

    October 12, 2021 at 1:37 pm

    I wonder if the DeSantis administration will allow women to make personal health decisions regarding abortions?

    Reply

    • FP Monitor

      October 12, 2021 at 4:09 pm

      It’s a big mistake is to respond to anything Tom posts. He’s an ignorant Trumpster hack simply looking for attention. Do yourself and all of us a big favor …… ignore all of his return comments. Maybe the internet troll will go away.

      Reply

      • Tom

        October 13, 2021 at 6:42 am

        LMAO

        Don’t you have to reply first before being ignorantly trolled.

        I guess I own the page and issues.
        Highest compliment. Lots of whining going on.

        LMAO

        Reply

  • Alex

    October 12, 2021 at 1:51 pm

    Once the courts are done with DeAnus and his dangerous to childrens lives imaginary parents rights political horseshit, he’ll wish he had listened to the good parents of Florida.

    This idiot has no business leading a bowling team much less leading Florida, or god forbid, America.

    Reply

  • Phil Morton

    October 12, 2021 at 4:02 pm

    The Florida Health Department really needs to remove health from it’s name.

    Reply

  • PeterH

    October 12, 2021 at 4:05 pm

    Leon County will pay zero dollars in this frivolous lawsuit. Idiots like DeSantis need to be voted out of office.

    Americans across the USA will be laser focused on this Governor’s Covid incompetence and lawsuits when the moron tries to run for President in 2024.

    Reply

    • Tom

      October 13, 2021 at 8:31 am

      Idiots, you three.
      Weasel Peter h, morton and Socialist Alex.

      Reply

      • tjb

        October 14, 2021 at 4:03 pm

        Names calling is your retort? First graders do a better job with name-calling than you Tom.

        Reply

        • Tom

          October 17, 2021 at 9:10 am

          I excluded you out of kindness but I’ll look to include as appropriate.

          Reply

  • NYCPeter

    October 12, 2021 at 6:56 pm

    here’s the real story :

    Leon County had 714 employees (out of XX,XXX) who didn’t want to get vaccinated. only 14 of those were willing to lose their jobs over it. doesn’t sound like Governor Death Sentence is betting on the winning horse here …

    Reply

  • DW

    October 13, 2021 at 7:39 am

    Thank you Moffitt cancer center for wearing masks and for probably being vaccinated as you care for our First Lady.

    Reply

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