At a Gainesville news conference on Monday, Gov. Ron DeSantis stood by a city employee who incorrectly claimed that the COVID-19 vaccination “changes your RNA.” Darris Friend, who has worked for Gainesville for more than two decades, followed his false claim up with, “So for me, that’s a problem. It’s about our freedom and liberty. It’s not about the vaccine.” DeSantis looked down briefly, but did not correct Friend at the time or afterward. A reporter for ABC7 tweeted that the governor’s office issued a response to the clip, saying, “The governor has never said the vaccine changes your RNA. This is not the governor’s opinion.”
Other men and women stood up at the conference to express skepticism about the vaccine, which has been mandated for city employees in Gainesville, along with other Florida districts like Orange County and Leon County. More than 200 Gainesville first responders have sued the city over the mandate; DeSantis said at Monday’s briefing that the state would be filing a legal brief supporting the litigious employees. He announced that Florida will fine local governments $5,000 for each employee who is required to be vaccinated. “That’s millions and millions of dollars potentially in fines,” DeSantis noted.