State of Florida joins firefighter lawsuit against Orange County over vaccine mandate

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Florida’s attorney general announced Thursday that the state has joined a lawsuit filed by Orange County firefighters against the county over its vaccine mandate.

The brief outlines the public safety threat that could be created by the county’s vaccine requirement.

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The nation, including Florida, is experiencing shortages in the ranks of first responders. The brief says the resulting shortages could lead to longer wait times during emergency situations, and Attorney General Ashley Moody asked that the case be heard soon.

At Orange County’s weekly COVID-19 briefing on Thursday, Mayor Jerry Demings responded to the news stating that the county will “aggressively defend” its mandate.

READ: Mayor says Orange County will ‘aggressively defend’ vaccine mandate in court after firefighter fired

Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke out about COVID-19 vaccine mandates during a news conference on Thursday.

“Your right to earn a living should not be contingent upon COVID-19 shots,” the governor said.

DeSantis said that when COVID-19 shots became available, he wanted everyone to have a chance to get them, but chose not to mandate them.

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He said he wanted individuals to make their own decision based on what was right for them.

The governor said he will take additional action and “stand up for people’s jobs and their livelihoods.”

READ: ‘Totally inappropriate’: DeSantis pushes back after Orange County battalion chief fired

DeSantis said he will mount aggressive legal challenges to federal vaccine mandates and take legislative action to add protections for people in the state of Florida.

He said he will be calling the Florida legislature back in November for a special session.

“We want to make sure that individuals in Florida have their jobs and livelihoods protected,” DeSantis said.

READ: Orange County battalion chief fired for failing to enforce vaccine mandate

DeSantis said he will be pursuing a number of protections for employees in Florida.

Orange County Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Stephen Davis also spoke during the news conference.

Davis lost his job this week after he refused to write up firefighters who did not comply with the county’s vaccine mandate. He said that he didn’t believe the list of people he was given to reprimand was up to date with the latest medical exemption or vaccination status information.

“To me this violated more than just a law, this violated their own civil rights,” Davis said. “This violated the trust that these men and women have have served over the last year and a half in the front lines.”

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Davis said he appreciates the support he’s received from the governor and the community following his termination.

“We have to stand up and we have to wake up,” Davis said.

This is a developing story. Check back and watch Eyewitness News for updates.

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Shannon Butler

Shannon Butler, WFTV.com

Shannon joined the Eyewitness News team in 2013.

Katlyn Brieskorn, WFTV.com

Katlyn Brieskorn is a Digital Assignment Editor at WFTV. She joined Channel 9 in July 2019.