Florida Gov. DeSantis Invalidates COVID Rules Statewide: No Need to Police People ‘At This Point’

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at a news at PortMiami in Miami on April 8.Joe Raedle / Getty Images
By James Call, Capital Bureau -USA TODAY NETWORK-FLORIDA – (Source: www.tallahassee.com) – Gov. Ron DeSantis, flanked by leaders of the Florida House and Senate, suspended local COVID emergency orders Monday and signed a proposal lawmakers approved last week that limits government’s ability to impose mask requirements and other social-distancing measures used to combat the coronavirus this past year.

The bill (SB 2006) also makes permanent DeSantis’ executive order that prohibits “vaccine passports,” saying it is unnecessary “to be policing people at this point.”

“I think if you are saying that you are really saying you don’t believe in the vaccines, you don’t believe in the data, you don’t believe in science,” said DeSantis at a bill signing ceremony in St. Petersburg.

The news comes at the same time that Florida continues to log thousands of new COVID cases each week, though the week-over-week totals are significantly decreasing. 

The legislation signed Monday also makes it more difficult for local governments to mandate measures such as mask wearing, or place limits on businesses operations by requiring emergency orders to be narrowly tailored and be in seven-day increments totaling no more than 42 days.

As the measure wound through committees opponents warned the restrictions would generate lawsuits and could have other unintended consequences, such as tourists avoiding the state because of health concerns.

Controversial bills, a closed Capitol:How COVID defined Florida’s 2021 legislative session

But DeSantis said the restrictions included in the bill are based in science and provides a roadmap for dealing with future health emergencies.

The executive order’s language was not immediately released and was not available on the Governor’s Office website as of midday Monday.

But later Monday morning, Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, announced that “the Florida Capitol Complex will be fully open to the public beginning this Friday, May 7, 2021.”

“In keeping with these developments, and taking into account the widespread availability of COVID-19 vaccines, as well as the end of the 2021 Regular Session, COVID-19 protocols for the Florida Senate have likewise been updated to reflect the current status of the pandemic in our state,” he said in a statement.

“There have been many lessons learned throughout the course of the pandemic, which inform continued protocols designed to keep our workplace as safe and healthy as possible.”

More:Controversial bills, a closed Capitol: How COVID defined Florida’s 2021 legislative session

This story is developing. Check back more for later. 

James Call is a member of the USA TODAY NETWORK-Florida Capital Bureau. He can be reached at jcall@tallahassee.com. Follow on him Twitter: @CallTallahassee

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