GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The debate over vaccine mandates is continuing to heat up in Florida. The state's attorney general recently showed her support for a group of city employees who have taken the city of Gainesville to court over its vaccine mandate.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody announced on Monday she filed a brief in support of the employees involved in the case. Moody says she's requesting the court grant the workers emergency relief, citing a shortage in police officers and the likelihood they will "prevail" in court.
More than 200 employees, which include firefighters and police officers, have filed the lawsuit, Reuters reports. The Gainesville City Commission has given city employees and contractors until Oct. 14 to receive vaccines or risk facing termination. Lawyers for the workers say many employees would rather quit or retire than follow the mandate.
A spokesperson for the city of Gainesville said the city believes it is within its rights to mandate vaccinations.
"The health, safety and welfare of our city’s workforce and those we serve is our number one priority. The city has taken the steps necessary to achieve that priority and stand by that decision. It is our belief that as an employer, we retain the right and responsibility to require vaccinations as a condition of employment," a statement by the city read.
Speaking Monday in Gainesville, Gov. Ron DeSantis reinforced the state's position that businesses and government agencies would be fined for requiring proof of vaccination against COVID-19.
Back in April, state lawmakers passed SB 2006 – banning businesses, educational institutions and government entities from making people show proof of vaccination to enter. In May, DeSantis signed that bill into law.
The way it's written, it doesn't explicitly say a government agency cannot tell one of its own employees to get vaccinated and appears more directed at individuals who walk into the government office for services. However, DeSantis made clear Monday that he believes it covers both.
President Joe Biden announced last week that businesses with 100 or more employees would have to ensure their workers were fully vaccinated or getting tested weekly for the virus. Biden said the continued refusal of people to get vaccinated would cause more damage to the nation.
In Tampa, Mayor Jane Castor recently announced that city employees had until Sept. 30 to get vaccinated or show a valid medical or religious reason why they can't. But, she did leave an opt-out in the policy, allowing employees who go unvaccinated to wear an N-95 mask and take weekly COVID tests.