TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Employees working for county governments in Leon and Orange counties will be required to prove they have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Workers employed by both counties’ governments have until Oct. 1 to provide proof that they’ve gotten the vaccine, or else they could face termination.
In a memo to employees, Leon County Administrator Vince Long said his message is simple and 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,” Long said.
Long estimates that just half of the county’s 1,000 employees have had a shot. He said that number isn’t acceptable.
A May 28 memo from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission gives employer mandates a green light. There are two exceptions to the vaccine requirement: medical or religious reasons.
Employees who have had COVID are not exempt from proving that they are vaccinated.
At the Leon County public works facility, the Capitol News Service found mixed reaction.
“I have no problem because I’m vaccinated,” said county employee Stevie Smith, who noted that he has no problem working alongside coworkers who aren’t vaccinated. “That’s their choice.”
The mandate leaves some employees in a bind. One worker who spoke on the condition of anonymity said he was not vaccinated. He wasn’t sure if the new requirement would force him to quit.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” he said.
At the Capitol on Thursday, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried once again called on Gov. Ron DeSantis to make daily data available, but she has not considered her own vaccine mandate.
“We have not gotten there yet,” Fried said.
If cases continue to spike, it’s likely that more governments and private businesses will consider vaccine mandates.
In response to questions from Capitol News, a spokesperson for Gov. DeSantis said the governor sides with individuals’ rights to keep their medical information private. She said the governor’s legal team is reviewing the new policies.
“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.”