Monday, May 3, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive order that officially and immediately ended all state pandemic precautions, including those at the city and county level.
That includes mask mandates and required temperature checks, among other things.
The governor also signed a bill, to take effect July 1, banning vaccine passports in the state and limiting the role of local government, particularly local authorities’ ability to keep schools and businesses closed.
The bill limits emergency orders to seven-day increments, with a max of 42 days, barring hurricanes.
“We wanted people going back to work, we wanted our kids to be in school; we thought that that was very important that parents have the ability to send their kids to school, and we wanted our economy to be healthy, our society to be healthy. We wanted people to be happy,” DeSantis said at the Monday press conference at The Big Catch at Salt Creek in St. Petersburg.
Pinellas schools have been open since the start of the school year in September, and very few restrictions on business openings or indoor capacities remain. Locally, the governor’s order mainly affects mask requirements, which the CDC still strongly recommends.
Nonetheless, DeSantis accused those who would maintain basic COVID precautions of not following “science.”
“I think folks that are saying 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 data, science,” DeSantis said.
According to the Florida Department of Health statistics, less than 30% of the state’s population is fully vaccinated, and recent demand for vaccines has stalled considerably.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, who was not at the event, took to Twitter afterwards.
“Today, in preempting both local governments AND businesses from keeping their establishments safe, Ron DeSantis decided he cares not about public health, but power,” Kriseman tweeted on Monday. “I’m old enough to remember when Republicans at least pretended to be pro-business and for less government.”
After the news on Monday, there was some confusion about the status of the Pinellas mask mandate as the county did not immediate offer guidance. The Board of County Commissioners has said they were considering rescinding the mask mandate at the May 11 BOC meeting.
“From what the governor said, people can not be penalized for not wearing a mask in public,” Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber President Robin Miller said. “But currently we will not speak on this until we get word from the county.”