ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed an executive order that will suspend all COVID-19 emergency orders issued by local governments in Florida.
DeSantis signed the executive order to bridge the gap before a law that accomplishes the same goal goes into effect on July 1.
Duval and surrounding counties don’t have mask mandates or ordinances in place anymore but some cities do as of Monday, like Fernandina Beach, where the mandate was likely going to be extended on Tuesday, according to the vice mayor.
But the city attorney now tells News4Jax it is going to have to look over the executive order before determining if and how it affects the city.
“I think that’s the evidence base thing to do,” DeSantis said during a news conference in St. Petersburg. “During any emergency, our businesses should be free from government mandates to close, and our schools should remain open for in-person instruction for our children.”
DeSantis said the new law would also allow the legislature to come in and potentially overrule any type of emergency order issued by a governor in the future.
The new order comes as health officials — including Dr. Anthony Fauci, White House chief medical advisor — said opening Florida without coronavirus precautions in place is a “risky proposition” as variants of the sometimes deadly virus continue to surge.
The Florida Department of Health reported 3,916 new cases on Sunday, bringing the state’s overall total to 2,242,778 cases since the virus was first detected on March 1, 2020. Florida reported 31 new virus-related deaths Sunday, bringing the death toll to 35,968.
“I think we’re definitely not out of the woods yet. In Florida, you know, we certainly don’t have a stellar record in terms of number of people, percentage of people who are fully vaccinated right now, we’re nowhere near where we need to be,” Dr. Jonathan Kantor, epidemiologist, told News4Jax.
Mayors weigh in:"We're still in an emergency," Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. “It feels a little bit like the governor is spiking the ball at the 10-yard line,” Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber. "Under no objective set of criteria are we safe yet,'' Broward Mayor Steve Geller— Mary Ellen Klas (@MaryEllenKlas) May 3, 2021
The bill signed Monday also will prohibit “vaccine passports,” the controversial idea that would allow businesses to require vaccines.
“You have a right to participate in society, go to a restaurant movie, a ballgame all these things without having to divulge this type of information,” DeSantis said.
The Republican governor also used the opportunity in front of the media to encourage Florida residents to get vaccinated and rail against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
DeSantis blamed Florida’s vaccine hesitancy and drop in the vaccination rate on the recent pause of the Johnson & Johnson one-dose shot.
“Look, when you’re dealing with these vaccines, you always want to see if there’s an issue, you can put out appropriate warnings, particularly if it’s for a certain demographic,” DeSantis said. “But by hastily taking it effectively off the market I think that that’s caused confidence in at least that vaccine to plummet.”
He also questioned the CDC’s guidance to continue to wear a mask even if you’ve been fully vaccinated.
The CDC, which has encouraged Americans to get vaccinated, recommends wearing masks in indoor public spaces because “the vaccination status of other people or whether they are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 is likely unknown.”
DeSantis said that sends a message that vaccines don’t work.
“Because if the vaccines worked, that would be your ticket to make basically live normally and make decisions for yourself. That would be the message that actually would work with people,” DeSantis said. “So I think that they’ve sent a message to say, You know what get vaccinated, but it really ain’t gonna do anything for you.”
The CDC eased its guidelines last week on the wearing of masks outdoors, saying fully vaccinated Americans don’t need to cover their faces anymore unless they are in a big crowd of strangers.
According to a recent survey, Republicans show the most hesitancy out of any group surveyed about getting a vaccine, with 45% saying they do not plan to receive one and 50% saying they’ve either gotten one already or plan to get one.
The number of Americans fully vaccinated against COVID-19 now tops 101 million, according to the CDC.