How will Florida Governor Ron DeSantis punish cities for vaccine mandates?
The governor has repeatedly resisted federal calls for vaccine mandates and has threatened local governments if they impose vaccines on staff.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has said the state will fine county and city governments $5,000 per violation if they require employees to be vaccinated. The announcement has drawn the ire of local officials in Florida, but is another example of Republican-controlled states' unwillingness to mandate for vaccines. The news comes after President Biden announced last week that companies with more than 100 employees would need to be vaccinated, along with all federal workers.
What is DeSantis' justification?
DeSantis has described the vaccine mandate as "very intrusive" and illegal." He also contended that Biden was "not following the science" in a press conference, saying the mandate ignored those who had become naturally immune.
The threats aimed at cities that were mandating vaccines included fines of millions of dollars.
"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 vaccine is "not something that should be coerced on people."
The new rules will begin to be enforced on Thursday, but its currently unknown how they can be and under what powers. DeSantis had previously banned masks in schools, a ruling that is still being fought in courts.
What has the reaction been?
Local governments in Florida have already hit out at their governor as they continue to deal with constant barriers to try and restrict the spread of covid-19. Florida has been one of the worst affected states in the latest wave of the pandemic, at one stage accounting for 1/4 new cases daily in the whole country.
"I'm not going to take actions that would adversely impact the safety of our community," Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings told Politico. "Sometimes quite frankly, I question whether or not the governor really sees it that way. He may say that he does but I believe many of the decisions that he makes are purely politically motivated."
Gainesville City spokesperson Shelby Taylor told NBC Miami in an email that the city government stands by its decision to implement vaccine requirements for its employees.
"It is our belief that as an employer we retain the right to require vaccination as a condition of employment."
What vaccine mandates did the Biden administration organize?
President Biden announced a presidential decree to impose a vaccine mandate not just on federal workers, but also on all businesses with over 100 employees. The move covers 2.5 million federal employees and 100 million people in total. Predictably, the Republican Party is not happy, but Biden told Republican governors to "get out of the way" and allow covid-19 measures to be implemented.