Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ office is responding to updated COVID-19 plans from Orange County officials, calling a provision where those who decline proof of vaccination will be fired “coercive and appears discriminatory on its face.” The Governor’s office was pressed by the West Orlando News after Mayor Jerry Demings and Tax Collector Scott Randolph issued threats of termination for county employees who do not get vaccinated this week.
Mayor Jerry Demings has made a lot of COVID-19 news this week: he declared the Orlando area is in “crisis mode” and the next day he called for mandatory vaccinations for county employees and a mask mandate indoors for county workers, while also now asking all residents to wear masks indoors. Mayor Demings said he is “pleading” with local businesses to also mandate COVID-19 vaccinations as terms of employment. Demings’ call for mandatory vaccinations followed Orange County Tax Collector Scott Randolph’s memo telling his staff to get the COVID-19 vaccine or find a new job. Both Demings and Randolph are Democrats.
In response, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is reaffirming his promise to stand for individuals’ rights to medical privacy. The Governor’s office also told the West Orlando News that DeSantis “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,” said Christina Pushaw, Press Secretary for the Executive Office of the Governor. “There are medical, religious and personal reasons why someone would choose not to get vaccinated, and the vaccines are still under EUA.”
The Florida Governor’s office also reiterated previous positions by DeSantis in warning local officials not to overstep their own authority on COVID. “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,” the Governor’s office told West Orlando News.
Governor DeSantis has also warned school boards not to mandate masks for children next school year, yet the Orange County School Board has made it clear their decision for masks to be optional can change at any time. School Board Chair Teresa Jacobs has openly been a champion for masks next year and taking extra precautions against COVID-19 in the schools. Jacobs is a Republican.
Earlier, Governor DeSantis warned a special session of the legislature may be called “to be able to provide protections for parents and kids who just want to breathe freely and don’t want to be suffering under these masks during the school year.”
What will Governor DeSantis do as local Central Florida officials issue COVID-19 vaccine mandates and mask mandates? The Florida Governor’s office confirmed their legal team is currently reviewing the issue. The local state of emergency order for Orange County can be viewed here.
Update: Florida State Representative Anthony Sabatini weighed in by posting on social media: “DeSantis MUST call a special session so we can strip Mayor Demings of power.”