Amid the rise in COVID-19 cases in Florida, government officials in Leon and Orange counties have decided to make the COVID-19 vaccination a condition for employment for their workers.

On Wednesday, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings signed an executive order for the requirement, while Leon County Administrator Vince Long notified employees through email.

At the press conference discussing the executive order, Demings stated, “What that means is this: I will now urge our residents and visitors, vaccinated and unvaccinated, to wear a mask when in an indoor space with others. We want our residents, businesses and visitors to follow the updated CDC guidelines to make sure there won’t be another shutdown like we experienced last year.”

He added, “There are 4,200, nonunion county employees who will have until Aug. 31, to get their first shot. Then they must have the second shot by the end of September. For the 3,450 or so union employees, the requirement will be negotiated with a bargaining unit.”

As for Long and Leon County, according to Tallahassee Reports his email stated, “Today, as vaccinations stagnate and the delta variant has created a resurgence of the COVID-19 virus with the state of Florida at its epicenter, vaccinations against COVID-19 will now become a condition of employment at Leon County Government for new and existing employees under the supervision of the County Administrator and the County Attorney.”

In a statement regarding the executive order in Orange County, Governor DeSantis’ Office said:

“Mayor Demings acknowledged that local governments cannot enforce mandates by, e.g., imposing fines and penalties on citizens. He also stated that voluntary action is just as effective, if not more so, than government mandates – which is not inconsistent with Governor DeSantis’ position. The Governor believes in conveying accurate information to the public, making decisions based on empirical evidence, and trusting citizens to decide what is best for themselves and their families. It is not the role of any level of government – local, state, or federal – to micromanage people’s lives, shut down their businesses indefinitely, or fine them for declining to wear a face covering. Based on what the Mayor said today, it does not sound like he intends to enforce his guidance by collecting fines or pressing charges against those who do not follow it, so he would not run afoul of state law. In short, the Mayor is within his right to make that declaration, but it does not give him the authority to impose penalties on the public for noncompliance with his recommendations. From what he said at the press conference, though, it doesn’t seem that he is threatening to impose penalties. It appears that he acknowledged the limitations on local authorities and the rights of his constituents to make their own informed decisions.”

However, regarding Leon County, Desantis’ Office said in a separate statement, “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.”

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Casey Owens is a contributing writer for The Florida Capital Star. Follow him on Twitter at @cowensreports. Email tips to [email protected]