PUNTA GORDA, Fla.—Last week, President Joe Biden ordered the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to produce rules mandating U.S. businesses with 100 or more employees to require vaccines for their workers if they refuse to get tested. On Monday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis vowed to fight against the vaccine mandates and uphold Florida law that bans proof of vaccinations.
At a press conference in Newberry, Florida, DeSantis stood with employees of local governments who have either lost their jobs or are in danger of losing their jobs due to the vaccine mandates and have filed suit against the nearby city of Gainesville.
The governor made his announcement in Alachua County, where workers for the city of Gainesville, mainly first responders, have filed suit over that city’s vaccine mandate.
Attorney General Ashley Moody filed on behalf of those workers an amicus brief supporting them, most of whom are first responders, and requested the court grant emergency relief. The brief in defense of the workers challenges the vaccine requirements for all municipal employees. She stated that the decision to fire any employee first responder will cause a shortage of police officers and other first responders.
As the wife of a first responder, Moody said that firing people in these professions because of a vaccine is “alarming.”
The governor contends that Biden’s mandates go against Florida law as he signed a bill in May banning governmental entities from “requiring proof of vaccination or post-infection recovery to gain access to, entry upon, or service from their operations.” In addition, the law could impose a $5,000 per day fine for any entity that asks for such proof of vaccinations.
‘It’s About Control’
DeSantis in Monday’s press conference said the vaccine mandates are “not about the science,” but “control” instead.
“This is political, it’s about using government power to control. We’re going to protect these jobs, we’re going to protect livelihoods and we’re going to protect families,” said DeSantis. “These big government mandates strip away people’s rights to make the best decision for themselves, but we are going to protect Floridians from federal and local government overreach. Floridians, not any governmental entity, are responsible for taking charge of their personal health.”
Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.), who dubbed herself as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) “least favorite in Congress” told the crowd that when COVID-19 was first on the horizon that first responders were heroes “who rushed to the aid of sick and dying people” and at the time were unvaccinated because the vaccine didn’t exist then. She said now they are being “cast aside.”
“Our first responders are heroes, running toward danger and risking their lives to save others. Their selfless service ensures our communities’ safety but requiring vaccinations or forcing our first responders out of their jobs does the exact opposite of protecting our citizens; instead, it disregards the very sacrifices these heroes make every single day,” she said.
Maria Bernard, Firefighter, Orange County Fire Rescue agreed and worries about the safety of her community.
“Losing potentially hundreds of firefighters will directly affect the safety of our citizens and our community,” Bernard said. “It won’t just be the unvaccinated that are affected.”
Bernard, a 17-year first responder, said that she has made life-saving decisions for people in her county and she is “trusted with that responsibility.” She recalled a recent quote from the Orange County Mayor.
“And I quote, ‘The goal of the government is sometimes to protect individuals, even from themselves.’ This quote stuck with me,” she said in the open meeting. “I am a firefighter and paramedic of 17 years treating patients and making life-saving decisions for them, and am trusted with that responsibility,” she said. “This statement implies that I must be incompetent because I need the government to protect me from myself.”
She told the crowd that if anyone were to collapse while at the press conference that she and any of the other first responders who were present would jump into action without regard to being vaccinated or unvaccinated.
“I would hope you would have faith in knowing that any one of us firefighters that are here would immediately act,” she said. “We would put our skillsets and years of knowledge to work and do everything possible to save your life. If we can make those decisions, then I can assure you, we know how to protect ourselves.”
She went on to say that collectively that first responders know how to “weigh the risk versus the benefits” and do not need the “overreach of government.”