Florida Gov. DeSantis threatens to issue “millions” in fines over local vaccine mandates

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said Monday that the state will fine cities and counties $5,000 for each employee required to get vaccinated, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Why it matters: It is the governor’s latest threat against local officials who have implemented mask or vaccine mandates in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.

Several school districts have openly defied DeSantis’ mask mandate ban, prompting state officials to withhold funds from at least two districts.

Driving the news: Local governments in Gainesville, Orange County and Leon County are bucking a new state law that bars businesses and governments from requiring proof of vaccination from employees and customers.

They have each required their employees to get vaccinated or face termination, with some exemptions.

What he’s saying: “We are not going to let people get fired because of the vaccine mandate,” DeSantis said at a news conference on Monday, per the Tampa Bay Times. “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.”

“That’s millions and millions of dollars potentially in fines,” he added.

The other side: Local governments are standing by their decisions, despite the threats.

“It is our belief that as an employer we retain the right to require vaccination as a condition of employment,” Gainesville spokesperson Shelby Taylor said in a statement to AP.”It could be a lot of money, yes, [no] question about it,” Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, a Democrat, said at a news conference, per AP. Demings called DeSantis’ moves politically motivated and stated that officials would “deal” with the threat either through the courts or another avenue.”At the end of the day, it is our goal to protect the people in our greater community, to keep them safe, which is a fundamental role of government.”

The big picture: Florida has become the epicenter of the nation’s outbreak this summer.

Deaths in state comprised over 20% of COVID-related deaths across the U.S. last week, per AP.

Go deeper: Biden plans COVID vaccine mandate for 80 million private sector employees

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