NEWBERRY, Fla. — Standing firm in the face of the Biden Administration, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday said any cities and counties in the Sunshine State that mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for public government employees will be fined $5,000 per worker.
Speaking in Alachua County, DeSantis said government agencies in violation could potentially face millions of dollars in penalties.
"We are gonna stand for the men and women who are serving us. We are gonna protect Florida jobs," DeSantis said. "We are not gonna let people be fired because of a vaccine mandate."
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The governor's firm anti-mandate stance is another defiant shot at President Joe Biden, who just last week announced the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is developing a rule that will require all businesses with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated, or require any workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work.
DeSantis on Monday said any government agency that forces its employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 is breaking the newly passed SB 2006.
The governor said the law, which bans private businesses from requiring customers to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination -- also known as "vaccine passports" -- applies to government agencies as well.
"You don't just cast aside people who have been serving faithfully over this issue, over what's basically a personal choice on their individual health," DeSantis said. "We cannot let these folks be cast aside. We cannot allow their jobs to be destroyed."
However, a closer look at the language of the law doesn't specifically mention anything about vaccine requirements for government employees, only customers who do business at government facilities:
"A governmental entity as defined in s. 768.38 may not require persons to provide any documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccination or post-infection recovery to gain access to, entry upon, or service from the governmental entity’s operations in this state. This subsection does not otherwise restrict governmental entities from instituting screening protocols consistent with authoritative or controlling government-issued guidance to protect public health."
Biden's vaccine mandate will impact more than 80 million workers in private sector businesses, according to the White House.
During a public address last Thursday, the president argued that COVID-19 is currently responsible for a "pandemic of the unvaccinated."
"What more is there to wait for? What more do you need to see?" Biden asked as he touted the safety of the vaccines.
Biden claimed his plan will ensure the U.S. is using every tool to combat the coronavirus and save lives in the months ahead, while also keeping schools open and safe and protecting the economy from lockdowns and further damage.
Speaking in Ponte Vedra Beach last Friday, DeSantis said Biden is "acting outside the bounds of the Constitution" by issuing the vaccine directive.
The governor promised to work with the Florida Legislature and hinted at pursuing legal action to provide protections for Floridians.