Florida Gov. DeSantis threatens to issue "millions" in fines over local vaccine mandates

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday that the state will fine cities and counties $5,000 for each employee required to get vaccinated, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Why it matters: It is the Republican governor's latest threat against local officials who have implemented mask or vaccine mandates in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.

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Driving the news: Local governments in Gainesville, Orange County and Leon County are bucking a new state law that bars businesses and governments from requiring proof of vaccination from employees and customers.

  • They have each required their employees to get vaccinated or face termination, with some exemptions.

What he's saying: "We are not going to let people get fired because of the vaccine mandate," DeSantis said at a news conference on Monday, per the Tampa Bay Times. "You don’t just cast aside people who have been serving faithfully over this issue, over what’s basically a personal choice over their individual health."

  • "That’s millions and millions of dollars potentially in fines," he added.

The other side: Local governments are standing by their decisions, despite the threats.

  • "It is our belief that as an employer we retain the right to require vaccination as a condition of employment," Gainesville spokesperson Shelby Taylor said in a statement to AP.

  • "It could be a lot of money, yes, [no] question about it," Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, a Democrat, said at a news conference, per AP. Demings called DeSantis' moves politically motivated and stated that officials would "deal" with the threat either through the courts or another avenue.

  • "At the end of the day, it is our goal to protect the people in our greater community, to keep them safe, which is a fundamental role of government."

The big picture: Florida has become the epicenter of the nation's outbreak this summer.

  • Deaths in the state comprised over 20% of COVID-related deaths across the U.S. last week, per AP.

Go deeper: Biden plans COVID vaccine mandate for 80 million private sector employees

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