Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Monday suspended remaining local COVID-19 restrictions in his state by executive order as part of a series of measures he said were aimed at preventing excessive government intervention in response to the pandemic.
DeSantis signed a bill that grants the governor the ability to invalidate local emergency orders, limits emergency orders to seven-day intervals, and prevents state or local governments from shutting down businesses or learn in person in schools. The bill also prevents businesses or schools from requiring so-called “vaccine passports” or requiring participants to provide proof that they have received a COVID-19 vaccine.
Although the bill does not come into effect until July 1, DeSantis has taken executive action to suspend local COVID-19 orders in the state, such as local mask warrants, until it be fully implemented. The governor had already banned “vaccine passports” by decree at the end of March.
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“Over the past year, we have avoided extended lockdowns and school closures in Florida because I 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 shut down our schools or businesses, ”DeSantis said in a statement.
“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,” he added.
DeSantis has drawn praise from leading Republicans for its handling of the state’s coronavirus pandemic, which has avoided the strict lockdown measures used in blue states in favor of a more lenient approach. He argued that the restrictions in other states are unsupported by science and are government overbroad.
Meanwhile, critics, including local officials, have argued that DeSantis’ approach will put the public at risk and make it harder to respond to future emergencies.
In Miami-Dade County, Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said a lifting of local COVID rules would ignore remaining dangers to public safety.
“We are still in an emergency situation,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Levine Cava said at a press conference, according to the Miami Herald. “We have less than half of our population vaccinated. We have new variants that threaten us. “
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“Today, by preventing local governments AND businesses from protecting their establishments, Ron DeSantis has decided that he doesn’t care about public health, but about power,” said St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman , on Twitter.
DeSantis’ decree does not prohibit local businesses from requiring masks or social distancing within their establishments.
Speaking at a press conference, DeSantis argued that continuing restrictions could undermine confidence in COVID-19 vaccines.
“People who say they have to watch people at this point say you don’t believe in vaccines, you don’t believe in data, you don’t believe in science,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.