ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Orange County employees must have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on or by Thursday as part of a county-issued mandate.
Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings originally set a deadline in an internal audit for employees to be fully vaccinated by Sept. 30, but he extended it last month to require employees to receive their first dose by then and be fully vaccinated by Oct. 31. Employees can receive the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine or one dose of Moderna or Pfizer by or on Thursday, Sept. 30.
Last week, Demings said 84% of all Orange County employees have complied with the mandate — including “94% of the non-union employees and 69% of the union employees.”
“We have signed a COVID-19 policy agreement with the International Association of Fire Fighters over the vaccine mandate,” Demings said. “As you all know, all of our other unions had already entered into agreements with us. And so that is good news for Orange County. That is good news for our residents... The agreement with the IAFF is consistent with the requirements that we made for all county employees.”
The mayor said in a letter to county employees issued on Sept. 15 that incentives for employees who received the vaccine by Aug. 31, the original deadline for at least one dose, will be a one-time bonus of $250 paid in October as well as one day of personal leave. Those who received a vaccine after Aug. 31 but on or before Sept. 30 will receive one day of personal leave.
When Demings first announced the vaccine mandate over the summer, he said workers who did not comply could be fired but later backtracked, saying they’ll get a written reprimand instead. Earlier this month, he reiterated that stance for firefighters who do not comply with the county’s 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.”
The mayor is also fighting back against the possibility of millions in fines from the state as the deadline for . A recent Florida law, signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and passed by state lawmakers, implements a vaccine passport ban. The rule, enforced by the Florida Department of Health, will implement a $5,000 fine per violation, meaning for every person who did not get vaccinated and then was required to, the county, city or employer would be fined $5,000.
The health department sent the county a letter last week, saying the mandate violates state law.
“Our legal team, headed by Orange County Attorney Jeff Newton, is reviewing the letter and we’ll be responding this week,” Demings said earlier this week. “There’s no doubt, we’re gonna’ end up in litigation.”
Demings is scheduled to provide a COVID-19 update Thursday at 4:30 p.m. News 6 will stream the update live at the top of this story when it begins.