Florida Gov. DeSantis invalidates COVID-19 restrictions statewide, says there’s no need ‘to be policing people at this point’

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended local COVID-19 emergency orders Monday and signed a proposal lawmakers approved last week that limits the government’s ability to impose mask requirements and other social distancing measures used to combat the coronavirus this past year.

The measure, Senate Bill 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,” DeSantis said at a bill signing ceremony in St. Petersburg.

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

DeSantis’ executive order to strike down local virus restrictions does not apply to mask mandates or social distancing  issued by businesses, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

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. 

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

They also questioned whether the measure will provoke a First Amendment challenge because it denies private businesses and schools the right not to associate with unvaccinated consumers.

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

“I think this creates a structure that’s going to be a little bit more respectful of people’s businesses, jobs, schools and personal freedoms.”

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

Follow reporter James Call on Twitter: @CallTallahassee

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