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Gov. DeSantis Blocks Local COVID-19 Orders

The Executive Order doesn’t block individual businesses from requiring masks or social distancing, but it limits the authority of cities and counties to mandate them.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended all local-government coronavirus emergency orders on Monday as he signed a bill that makes permanent his ban on COVID-19 vaccine “passports” and limits the authority of cities and counties in future health-care crises.

“My message is that the vaccines protect you. Get vaccinated, and then live your life as if you are protected,” DeSantis said during an event at the Big Catch at Salt Creek, a St. Petersburg restaurant. “You don’t have to chafe under restrictions infinitum.”

DeSantis announced an executive order suspending local-government orders about coronavirus precautions and signed an emergency-management bill (SB 2006) approved Thursday by the Legislature.

While the executive order won’t block businesses from requiring customers to socially distance or wear masks, DeSantis said he will call at the next state clemency board meeting for lifting outstanding COVID-19-related fines that local governments have imposed on businesses.

Democrats called the executive order “premature” and a separate so-called vaccine passport-ban “strange” as Republicans advocated for business freedom. The vaccine-passport ban prevents businesses, schools and government agencies from requiring people to show proof of vaccination before gaining entry.

DeSantis on April 2 issued an executive order blocking vaccine passports, which he said would create “huge” privacy issues that could result in people handing over medical information to a “big corporation.” The bill makes that permanent. The bill signed Monday by DeSantis will allow the governor to override local orders during health crises if they are determined to “unnecessarily restrict individual rights or liberties.”

House Minority Co-leader Evan Jenne, D-Dania Beach, said the executive order will pressure businesses to lift COVID-19 requirements to avoid confusion.

The bill signed by DeSantis will require local emergency orders to be narrowly tailored and to be extended in seven-day increments for a maximum duration of 42 days. Currently, such orders can be issued initially for seven days and extended indefinitely in seven-day increments.

Also, state agencies will be required to develop by the end of 2022 public health emergency plans, and the Division of Emergency Management will have to stockpile personal protective equipment.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6.4 million people in Florida have been fully vaccinated, 29.86% of the population, the 36th-best rate among states.

The state Department of Health reported Monday that nearly 2.6 million people have received the first doses of a two-dose series.

Source: News Service of Florida