Florida governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive order Monday eliminating all remaining local COVID-19 emergency mandates.
He also signed legislation effective July 1 that allows the governor the authority to invalidate local emergency restrictions if they infringe upon individual liberties, bars state or local governments from temporarily closing businesses or suspending in-person school instruction, and increases the state’s resources for future public-health emergency planning.
“What I’m going to do is sign the bill; it’s effective July 1,” DeSantis said. “I will also sign an executive order pursuant to that bill invalidating all remaining local emergency COVID orders effective on July 1. But then to bridge the gap between then and now, I am going to suspend, under my executive power, the local emergency orders as it relates to COVID. I think that’s the evidence-based thing to do.”
Additionally, the bill codifies the outlawing of “vaccine passports,” which the governor enacted via executive order in March, barring any business or government entity from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination for entry. Under the law, businesses that require patrons to provide proof of inoculation could be penalized with a $5,000 fine.
“In Florida, your personal choice regarding vaccinations will be protected, and no business or government entity will be able to deny you services based on your decision,” Desantis said.
The order does not prohibit private businesses from requiring masks or social distancing if they choose to do so within their establishments.
“Over the last year we’ve avoided protracted lockdowns and school closures in Florida because I have refused to take the same approach as other lockdown governors. This legislation ensures that legal safeguards are in place so that local governments cannot arbitrarily close our schools or businesses,” DeSantis said at the bill signing.
Critics claim that the governor is ignoring the outstanding risks to public safety by lifting local COVID policies.
“We are still in an emergency,” Miami-Dade County mayor Daniella Levine Cava said at a press conference, according to the Miami Herald. “We have fewer than half of our people vaccinated. We have new variants threatening us.”