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Florida fines Leon County $ 3.5 million for enforcing Covid-19 vaccine passports

The county was in “gross violation of the law,” the state’s health department said in a statement, describing a fine of $ 3,570,000 because the Leon County government had required employees to provide documents on their Covid-19 vaccination and ultimately fired 14 people for their refusal or non-compliance. The department noted “714 counts” in violation of the ban.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis cited freedom and privacy concerns as the main basis for his passport vaccine ban in April, and then vowed to fine counties and cities across the state in violation. of it. The fines underscore the Republican governor’s broad resistance to public health measures and mandates that experts say are essential to curb the pandemic and prevent future outbreaks.

“It is unacceptable that Leon County violated Florida law, violated the medical confidentiality of current and former employees, and fired loyal public servants because of their personal health decisions,” DeSantis said in a statement Tuesday. . “We will continue to fight for the rights of Floridians and the Florida Department of Health will continue to uphold the law. We will defend the jobs of Floridians, defend the livelihoods of Floridians and defend freedom.”

But Leon County Administrator Vincent Long told CNN in a statement: “The county firmly maintains that the requirement to vaccinate our employees was not only fully legally justifiable, but that it was necessary and responsible action to be taken to ensure the safety of our employees, protect the public and ensure our readiness as a frontline response organization. ”

Long said DeSantis’ position “unfortunately appears to be less of a public health strategy and more of a political strategy” and the county “fully intends to uphold its rights by using all available remedies to settle all arguments concerning the applicability of the law in question. “

DeSantis ‘handling of the pandemic has put him at odds with President Joe Biden, who has elevated vaccination mandates as an important tool in the United States’ national response.

“We are facing a lot of backlash, especially from some Republican governors. The governors of Florida and Texas are doing everything possible to undermine the vital demands that I have proposed,” Biden said in a speech in the month. last calling specifically on DeSantis and Governor Greg Abbott of Texas.

“It is the worst kind of policy because it endangers the lives of the citizens of their states, especially children. And I refuse to give in to it,” said the president at the time.

For DeSantis, his fight with the White House – as is the case with the policies he has pursued against mask mandates and blockades – helps him with a narrow but politically powerful segment of the Republican Party, reinforcing his importance national election before re-election in 2022. campaign and a potential presidential candidate in 2024.

But Biden and his senior officials are keen to speak out that DeSantis continues to flout medical recommendations in the fight against the virus, believing that making him an example could encourage other governors to do more.

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