ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Addressing a letter from state officials Friday that threatened to fine Orange County government over its COVID-19 vaccine mandate, Mayor Jerry Demings said it's likely the situation will ultimately be decided in court.
What You Need To Know
- Orange County employees have until Sept. 30 to receive at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine
- Employees who do not get the shot by then may receive a written reprimand
- Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said Monday that currently, 85% of county employees are in line with the requirement
- More: Coronavirus Live Updates: What to Know in Central Florida
“It is no different that as the death toll continues to rise, that is the fundamental goal of government, to intervene,” Demings said Monday. "There's no doubt we are going to end up in litigation regarding this."
At issue is the county's vaccine mandate, which requires all employees to receive at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 30. If an employee refuses to get vaccinated, they could receive a written reprimand, but their job is not in jeopardy, Demings said on Sept. 23.
"We are on firm legal ground with this vaccine mandate that we have put in place," Demings said. "As I reported to you on Thursday, no employee will be terminated for not getting vaccinated."
The next day, Demings received a letter from the Florida Department of Health, which claimed the county's mandate was in violation of SB 2006, which forbids businesses or governmental organizations from requiring proof of vaccination from "patrons or customers."
"You are also requiring all employees to attest to the completion of their vaccination and provide such documentation to your Human Resources office," Friday's DOH letter said. "This discriminatory policy infringes upon the fundamental rights and privacies of Floridians and is a direct violation of Section 381.00316, Florida Statutes."
Here is a copy of the letter @OCFLMayor got from the @GovRonDeSantis administration regarding employees of @OrangeCoFL needing proof of a #CovidVaccine. @MyNews13 #N13Covid19 pic.twitter.com/TSX74iAB4D— Spectrum News Asher Wildman (@AsherWildman13) September 27, 2021
The letter did not expand on how the language of a law that is specific to "patrons or customers" could also be applied to employees.
Nonetheless, the DOH threatened a $5,000 fine for each violation and then sought "the current number of employees who are subject to the requirement."
While a group of Orange County firefighters has been vocally against the county's vaccine mandate, Demings said Monday every member of Orange County Fire Rescue is also an EMT and "has potential contact with our residents" and stressed that he wants county employees and residents protected from COVID-19.
Demings also said that 391 OCFR employees have already tested positive for COVID-19, which is about one third of the department.
Demings also reported Monday that 85% of all county employees have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine — which breaks down to 94% of non-union employees and 69% of union employees.
"As of Friday, 85% of all Orange County employees have had one or more shots or were granted accommodations," he said.
The mayor is calling this legislation arbitrary and dangerous. The county's legal team is looking over the letter and will respond this week.