Florida counties impose vaccine mandate

Published: Jul. 29, 2021 at 4:14 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - The county governments surrounding the state capital and Orlando, Leon and Orange Counties, are now requiring every employee to show proof of being vaccinated.

Employees have until October 1 to prove they’ve had a shot or face termination.

In his memo to employees, Leon County Administrator Vince Long said his message is very simple and very serious: Unvaccinated employees pose a significant risk to spread the virus.

“I have to ensure that we have a ready workforce to respond to the needs of this community. Especially related to the COVID-19 variant as well a lot of other things like hurricane season,” said Long.

Long estimates that just half of the county’s 1,000 employees have had a shot.

“That number is just not acceptable, frankly,” said Long.

A May 28th memo from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission gives employer mandates a green light.

There are just two exceptions to the vaccine requirement: Medical or religious.

Employees who have had COVID are not exempt from proving that they are vaccinated.

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At the County public works site, we found mixed reactions.

“I have no problem because I’m vaccinated,” said Leon County employee Stevie Smith.

We asked how he felt about working alongside others who are not vaccinated.

“That’s their choice,” said Smith.

But the mandate leaves some in tough a tough spot.

One worker who remained unnamed told us he was not vaccinated.

We asked if the new mandate would drive him to quit.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” he said.

At the Capitol Thursday, Ag Commissioner Nikki Fried once again called on the Governor to make daily data available but has not considered her own vaccine mandate.

“We have not gotten there yet. We are thinking again, of creativity,” said Fried.

If cases continue to spike, it’s likely more governments and private businesses to enact a vaccine mandate.

We reached out to the Governor’s Office.

Press Secretary Christina Pushaw told us in a statement, “Governor DeSantis stands for individuals’ rights to medical privacy and opposes discrimination in all its forms. The provision that county employees who decline to show proof of vaccination will be fired is coercive and appears discriminatory on its face.”

She added the office’s legal team is looking at the policy.

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