DeSantis suspends Florida's remaining COVID-19 restrictions

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisFlorida poll: DeSantis falls behind Crist as COVID-19 cases surge Overnight Health Care: Florida becomes epicenter of COVID-19 surge | NYC to require vaccination for indoor activities | Biden rebukes GOP governors for barring mask mandates Biden rebukes GOP governors for barring mask mandates MORE (R) suspended all of the state’s remaining COVID-19 restrictions through an executive order Monday, calling it “the evidence-based thing to do” while citing the availability of vaccines. 

The Florida governor declared the suspension of restrictions at a press conference in St. Petersburg, Fla., where he signed a bill passed by the legislature last week that allows the governor to overrule local emergency orders starting July 1.  

DeSantis also signed a separate executive order removing all local orders July 1, but he said his executive order outlawing COVID-19 emergency orders immediately served to “bridge the gap” between now and July 1. 

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“I think that's the evidence-based thing to do,” he said. “I think folks that are saying that they need to be policing people at this point — if you're saying that, you really are saying you don't believe in the vaccines, you don't believe in the data, you don't believe in the science.”

“Given the situation we find ourselves in, given that the legislature spoke very clearly about this, given the fact that we have widespread availability of vaccines, that the vaccines are effective, I think ... the fact is we're no longer in a state of emergency,” he added. 

Florida has stayed under a state of emergency since March 2020, and last week, DeSantis extended the state of emergency for an additional 60 days.  

The governor, who is seen as a potential 2024 presidential candidate, labeled the emergency orders as “not justifiable” and “extraordinary” at the current point in the pandemic and with the “surplus” of vaccines. He also clarified that the executive action only applies to government orders and not rules, such as mask requirements, enforced by businesses.

“We're going to be able to handle it,” he said. “People are going to be able to make decisions, and they have the wherewithal to be able to protect themselves with vaccine if they want.”

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Senate Bill 2006, which DeSantis signed Monday, makes it harder for local governments to issue their own emergency orders, requiring these orders to be narrowly tailored and extended for seven-day periods for a maximum of 42 days, as opposed to having no time limit.

People were split on the suspended restrictions, with business owners applauding the decision in interviews with the Tampa Bay Times. But others like St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman (D) slammed the governor’s action. 

“Today, in preempting both local governments AND businesses from keeping their establishments safe, Ron DeSantis decided he cares not about public health, but power,” he tweeted. “I'm old enough to remember when Republicans at least pretended to be pro-business and for less government.”

 

In total, Florida has documented the third-most COVID-19 cases and the fourth-most deaths of any state in the U.S. since the beginning of the pandemic, according to The New York Times’s statistics. Similar to the rest of the country, Florida has seen a decline in daily cases since mid-April.