Gelber calls governor’s decision not to enforce mask mandates ‘a huge mistake’

MIAMI BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber is asking Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to reconsider his position on no longer enforcing mask mandates in the state.

In an interview with 7News, Sunday afternoon, the mayor did not mince words about the governor’s steps to reopen the state.

“I really think this is a huge mistake,” he said.

Gelber called on DeSantis to rethink parts of his Phase 3 reopening plan.

“It makes absolutely no sense to stop local governments from enforcing mask requirements on individuals,” he said.

The mayor sent a letter addressed to the governor where he outlines his concerns.

In it, Gelber wrote, “If we are to regain our economic footing, it most certainly will be with the diligent practice of wearing masks and social distancing.”

“It’s the one thing that’s been helping us open up our economy. It’s clearly lowering the presence of the virus. It’s saving lives,” he said during the interview.

DeSantis announced the shift into Phase 3 on Sept. 25. The move comes as new infections of COVID-19 in Florida saw a steady decline for several weeks, according to numbers released by state officials.

The executive order allows bars and nightclubs to reopen and also permits restaurants to serve at full capacity.

The order also stops cities and counties from being able to collect fines from anyone not wearing a face covering.

“All outstanding fines and penalties that have been applied against individuals are suspended,” said DeSantis.

The changes have led to some confusion for visitors to Miami Beach.

“It’s been a little bit confusing, because you see signs that masks are required,” said Shawntee Lacy, who is visiting from Texas.

“We were like, ‘Hold on. Do we actually need a mask?’ And people were like, ‘Yeah, you need a mask,'” said Spike Leo, who is visiting from Chicago.

Passers-by who spoke with 7News on Sunday expressed mixed reactions about the changes.

“You probably should keep it on until we get to the bottom of it and figure out what is going on,” said Leo.

“I think, in confined spaces, yes, but I mean, in a setting like outside, like right now, I mean, no,” said Lacy.

Gelber claimed the governor could be making decisions on face coverings for political reasons.

“Really, I’m scratching my head figuring out why would the governor do this?” he said. “That’s not a mainstream view. The [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], everybody says that.”

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Broward Mayor Dale Holness said they will continue to issue citations for people who are not following the mask mandates, but they can only collect those fines once the governor’s executive order expires.

Anyone with questions and concerns about the coronavirus can call the Florida Department of Health’s 24-hour hotline at 1-866-779-6121.

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