DeSantis suspends local COVID-19 emergency orders

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed an executive order suspending all local COVID-19 emergency orders in the state.

DeSantis made the announcement Monday morning during a press conference in St. Petersburg.

“The approach here is showing Florida leading the way again, because I think there are other states that are probably going in a different direction,” he said.

The order will also restrict what local leaders, such as mayors and county commissioners, can do when it comes to enforcing any form of COVID restrictions for the public.

“I think that’s the evidence-based thing to do,” he said to applause from those standing next to him at the press conference.

Private businesses, however, can still uphold their own rules so long as it is not being mandated or ordered by local government.

“During any emergency, our businesses should be free from government mandates to close, and our schools should remain open for in-person instruction for our children,” DeSantis said. “That actually was the pre-COVID pandemic playbook. No one advocated a yearlong restriction or lockdown on business or schools like we’ve seen in these other states.”

He said further, “I think over the last years, we’ve seen some of the abuses. We want to make sure that we stop that here.”

The governor also signed a new bill that would restrict what local leaders can do in emergency situations going forward.

“Any local emergency order, excluding hurricane emergencies, are capped at seven-day increments,” he said.

In terms of the COVID order, it was met with disappointment by local leaders.

Broward County Mayor Steve Geller said he’s worried the executive order comes too soon.

“I was less happy when the governor took away our ability to fine businesses, but at least we could still say, ‘It is a county order. Please follow it,'” he said. “The governor has now taken that away from us.”

Geller went on to say, “I philosophically disagree, but that’s just my personal view. We will follow the orders of the governor.”

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava issued a statement that reads, “I’m deeply concerned by this decision. We are still in a public health emergency, and our economy has not fully rebounded from crisis. Fewer than half of our residents have been vaccinated, and we face a growing threat from variants.”

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber echoed Geller and Levine Cava’s concerns.

“There’s no question [the governor] is spiking the ball to the 10-yard line. We’re not in the end zone yet,” he said.

“Businesses still have their own rights as proprietors to require masks, should they choose to,” Geller said.

During the press conference, DeSantis also signed a bill banning COVID-19 passports in the state.

The bill also allows DeSantis to invalidate all local emergency orders in relation to the pandemic by July 1.

DeSantis also said he will use his executive power to suspend the local emergency orders until July 1 when the executive order goes into effect.

One thing local leaders and the governor can agree on is that they want everyone to receive the vaccine.

“I urge everybody to get vaccinated. It is critical,” said Geller.

“The vaccines protect you. Get vaccinated, and then live your life as if you’re protected,” said DeSantis.

With Pfizer requesting emergency use authorization by early next week for 12- to 15-year-olds to get the vaccine, even more Floridians may soon have a shot at protection.

In Florida, 29.4% of the population has been fully vaccinated. In Miami-Dade, 30.7% have been fully vaccinated, 29.2% in Broward and 34.2% in Monroe County.

Some large companies, including Walt Disney World, have said they will still require customers to wear masks.

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