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Leon, Orange counties require workers to be vaccinated

Orange County is negotiating with unions on the requirement for union employees.
Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings puts on his mask after speaking during a COVID-19 briefing at the Orange County Administration Center, on Monday, July 19, 2021.
Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings puts on his mask after speaking during a COVID-19 briefing at the Orange County Administration Center, on Monday, July 19, 2021.
Published Jul. 28, 2021

Citing a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases because of the delta variant of the coronavirus, Leon and Orange counties on Wednesday moved to require their employees to get vaccinated against the disease.

“This is very simple and very serious. As an employer, we are required to provide a safe work environment for employees, and unvaccinated employees pose a significant risk to spread the virus,” Leon County Administrator Vince Long said in a memo announcing a vaccination requirement for county employees.

The memo also said employees make up an “essential government agency” that is obligated to ensure “operational readiness” to serve Leon residents.

Employees will be given until Oct. 1 to provide proof that they have been fully vaccinated, and their employment will be terminated if they fail to do so.

However, “reasonable accommodations” will be made for employees with disabilities, medical conditions or a “sincerely held religious belief” that prevents them from being vaccinated, Long said. Leon County employees who are granted exemptions will be required to wear masks at all times.

Related: Tampa Mayor Jane Castor: 'Get vaccinated or get COVID'

Meanwhile, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings declared a local state of emergency Wednesday while announcing 1,371 new coronavirus cases on the day, which he said is an “all-time high.”

Demings also ordered thousands of county employees to get fully vaccinated by the end of September.

“There are 4,200 non-union county employees who will have until Aug. 31 to get their first shot, then they must have their second shot by the end of September,” Demings said.

For the roughly 3,450 union employees, “the requirement will be negotiated with the bargaining units,” Demings added.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines Tuesday advising that all people, including those who are fully vaccinated, wear masks in schools and areas of “substantial or high” transmission.

Orange County is requiring employees to wear masks in indoor county facilities, Demings said, and is “urging” that residents wear masks in public indoor settings.

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