ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings announced Thursday that firefighters who do not comply with the county’s vaccine mandate for its employees will not face termination, but rather will only get hit with a written reprimand.
“This week, there were discussions with the International Association of Firefighters regarding the vaccine mandate. This is where we stand at this point. We are offering a cap on the disciplinary actions for those who choose not to comply with the mandate. I want to be clear here, it was never my intention to terminate anyone from our employment,” Demings said. “My desire and goal was to increase the rate of vaccinations amongst our employees and we have accomplished that.”
Demings added that the vaccine mandate still remains in place and that 84% of all Orange County employees have complied with the directive — including “94%, of the non-union employees and 69% of the union employees.”
“These numbers include employees who have received one or more doses of the vaccine or who have had accommodations granted,” the mayor clarified.
Since the county’s last briefing on Monday, 45 additional deaths from COVID-19 have been reported within the county. According to Ken Donahue, the public information officer with the Florida Department of Health in Orange County, 13 of those deaths were from August, bringing the total number of deaths from last month to 401. The other 32 deaths reported occurred in September, Donahue said. The overall death toll from COVID-19 in Orange County is 1,922.
Donahue added that all 45 of the deaths were associated with residents in long-term care facilities.
“Nine out of the 45 are fully vaccinated and three of the 45 were partially vaccinated,” he said.
The vaccination rate for the county has edged slightly higher to 73% of the eligible population, according to Donahue, and the 14-day rolling positivity rate has dropped to 10.57%.
Demings also spoke about a recent meeting of the Florida Association of Counties. The mayor claimed that leaders from “most of the counties in Florida” have “significant concern” about a loss of home rule in the state of Florida.
“Local counties’ home rule has been infringed upon by the legislature and so that’s something that we will be monitoring going forward, collectively,” he said.
Jason Wheat is an Orange County firefighter who will not get vaccinated.
“A written mandate stays in your file for a year and a half and that will take our members away from getting a promotional exam,” Wheat said. “We think that this is against our constitutional rights to get mandated to get something stuck in our body”