City Updates on COVID-19 Vaccination Status, Mandatory Testing Amid New Law

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In August, the City of Winter Park launched an initiative for its employees to receive $150 and an additional paid day off work in exchange for proof of vaccination. The City also implemented a new policy in which those employees who have chosen to forgo vaccination or have not voluntarily provided proof of vaccination must be tested weekly for COVID-19 or take unpaid leave until able to provide proof of a negative test.

Spokesperson for the City of Winter Park Communications Department, Clarissa Howard, recently announced that the City has exceeded its 65 percent vaccination goal among employees and that 366 City of Winter Park employees, about 71 percent, have been fully vaccinated.

“Our voluntary employee vaccination incentive program was developed to encourage employees to get vaccinated,” Howard said. “This was done to keep our workforce and community as safe as possible from the spread of COVID-19. We exceeded our 65 percent goal of city employees voluntarily showing proof of vaccination.”

The weekly testing requirement began on Monday, September 20. City employees could either receive their weekly test free of cost during the workday at a facility pre-approved by the City or, if unable to make the City testing date and time, at a location of their choosing on their own time and a personal expense. According to the City, its mandatory testing plan’s cost could range from $20K-$25K each month, and tests will be administered by a third-party service rather than the Winter Park Fire-Rescue Department, as the City previously stated in an article by the32789.

“Employees that have not voluntarily shown proof of full vaccination will be required to be tested weekly,” Howard said. “If employees do not fulfill the requirement each week, they will be placed on leave without pay. If they continue to not test, their absence from work can constitute termination.”

On September 13, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced plans at a press conference to implement SB 2006, a law he signed in May that bans governmental entities in Florida from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination or post-infection recovery to gain access to, entry upon, or service from their operations. According to DeSantis, the law says that any employer or entity, including local government entities, that asks for proof of vaccination for private or public workers in Florida will be administered a $5,000 fine per violation.

Earlier this year, DeSantis used SB 2006 to combat mask mandates for students across the state and contest a “vaccine passport,” which would serve as a paper or digital proof of vaccination, like a vaccine card, for individuals traveling in and out of the country. According to Howard, the City of Winter Park’s policy is not in violation of SB 2006 since it has not activated a mandatory vaccination policy and currently only requires mandatory testing for employees that have not voluntarily provided proof of vaccination.

“We have not and do not require proof of vaccination from our employees or the public,” Howard said. “The incentive vaccination program we implemented was voluntary for employees to participate and the testing requirement is required of all city employees unless they voluntarily provide proof of vaccination. So, our programs do not require proof of vaccination.”

The City plans to continue adhering to other precautionary measures such as hosting virtual meetings, social distancing at indoor events, wearing masks indoors when safe social distances cannot be maintained, regularly sanitizing, and staying at home when ill. An update regarding the City’s vaccination status was provided at the September 22 City Commission meeting.

See the City’s agenda for all recommended safety measures or visit the Florida Health Department in Orange County’s website for more information.

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