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Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Florida Department of Health on Tuesday fined Leon County $3.5 million for requiring its employees to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, saying it violated the state's ban on "vaccine passports."

Why it matters: This is Florida's latest move to penalize local officials who have attempted to implement mask or vaccine mandates to contain the spread of the virus.

  • Leon County, which is home to the state's capital, is said to have violated Florida law by requiring 714 employees to provide documentation certifying that they had received the vaccine and by firing 14 employees who hadn't complied, according to the notice of violation.
  • Local governments in Gainesville and Orange County also had similar requirements, but Gainesville rescinded the vaccine mandate last month.

What they're saying: "Every single day over the last 20 months of combating the pandemic, [our] emergency response and mitigation efforts have been informed by expert public health guidance," Leon County Administrator Vincent Long said in an emailed statement.

  • "The Governor's position in this instance unfortunately appears to be less of a public health strategy and more about political strategy," he added.
  • "Leon County fully intends to enforce its rights using any remedies available to settle all arguments about the applicability of the statute at issue so that we can continue to direct our full and undivided attention on combating the virus."
  • "It is unacceptable that Leon County violated Florida law, infringed on current and former employees' medical privacy, and fired loyal public servants because of their personal health decisions," DeSantis said in a statement.

The big picture: Florida has become the epicenter of the nation's outbreak this summer, with deaths in the state comprising over 20% of COVID-related deaths across the U.S. last month, Axios' Shawna Chen writes.

Go deeper: DeSantis threatens to issue "millions" in fines over local vaccine mandates

Go deeper

Southwest opens a loophole in its vaccination policy

Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Southwest Airlines is dropping its plan to put unvaccinated employees on unpaid leave if they haven’t received a religious or medical exemption by the Dec. 8 federal deadline.

Driving the news: Employees will be able to continue working if they follow mask and distancing guidelines until their exemption request has been reviewed, per a staff memo first reported by CNBC.

Judge denies relief for Cobb parents suing over mask-optional policy

Pro-mask demonstrators hold signs and chant during a rally over Cobb School District’s optional mask policy. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage for Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal court judge has rejected parents’ request for a temporary injunction in their lawsuit against the Cobb County School District over its mask-optional policy.

Why it matters: Approval of the request would have required the district to follow CDC guidelines to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in schools, including universal masking while indoors.

John Frank, author of Denver
Oct 18, 2021 - Axios Denver

Denver poised to give belated incentives for vaccinations

Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock speaks at the Colorado Convention Center on Sept. 22. Photo: RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Mayor Michael Hancock may have his way after all.

What's happening: City employees who are vaccinated against COVID-19 or received an exemption could soon receive bonuses for complying with the Hancock administration's vaccine mandate.