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Florida county fined $3.5 million for requiring employees to get vaccinated

A controversial Florida law prohibits businesses and governments from requiring people to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
Credit: AP
FILE - In this Jan. 10, 2021 file photo, Sarah Gonzalez of New York, a Nurse Practitioner, displays a COVID-19 vaccine card at a New York Health and Hospitals vaccine clinic in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Workers in New York City-run hospitals and health clinics will have to get vaccinated or get tested weekly under a policy announced Wednesday, July 21, to battle a rise in COVID-19 cases fueled by the highly contagious delta variant. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle, File)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The county government that's home to Florida’s capital was fined $3.5 million by state health officials for requiring its employees to get COVID-19 vaccines and for firing 14 workers who failed to get the shots. 

The Florida Department of Health on Tuesday issued the fine for Leon County, saying the municipality violated Florida’s “vaccine passport” law. 

The law prohibits businesses and governments from requiring people to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination. It took effect last month and can result in a $5,000 fine per violation.

However, the law is being challenged in court and conflicts with a Biden administration order that mandates all employers with more than 100 workers require employees to be vaccinated or test for COVID-19 weekly.

“It is unacceptable that Leon County violated Florida law, infringed on current and former employees’ medical privacy, and fired loyal public servants because of their personal health decisions,” Gov. DeSantis' office said in a statement acquired by the Tallahassee Democrat.

“Governor DeSantis will continue fighting for Floridians’ rights and the Florida Department of Health will continue to enforce the law.” 

The newspaper reports that Leon County Administrator Vince Long stood by his decision in an interview Tuesday, saying the county is “taking all of the legal steps necessary to defend the position we’ve taken in the interest of public health." He referred to the governor's opposition to vaccine mandates as "political strategy" during the same interview.

If Gov. DeSantis does follow through on his promise, more than 100 businesses are at risk of being fined for violating the state's "vaccine passport" law. This includes several in the Tampa Bay area like the Straz Center and the Mid Florida Credit Union Ampitheatre. 

Here's a full list of businesses under investigation by the Florida Department of Health for violating the law.