ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order Monday to suspend all COVID-19 emergency orders in Florida that were put into place by counties and cities, effectively ending all local pandemic-related restrictions in the state.
“To bridge the gap between then and now, I’m going to suspend under my executive power the local emergency orders as it relates to COVID,” DeSantis said during a bill signing at a St. Petersburg restaurant. “I think that’s the evidence-based thing to do. I think folks that are saying they need to be policing people at this point, if you’re saying that, then you’re really saying you don’t believe in the vaccines.”
DeSantis also signed SB 2006, a bill banning vaccine passports and limiting some local government powers. The bill will ensure neither the state or local government can close businesses or keep kids out of school “unless they satisfy demanding or continuous justification.”
That law will take effect July 1. DeSantis said the executive order to suspend local orders will be pursuant to that bill, and will take effect immediately.
“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,” Governor DeSantis said.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, who was not at the bill signing in his city on Monday, quickly criticized DeSantis’ actions, accusing the governor and the Florida legislature of applying politics to health care.
“Instead of the legislature and the governor pre-empting cities and counties, they should be calling us all up and saying thank you to cities and counties,” Kriseman said. “What could have happened in the state of Florida as far as the number of hospitalizations and the number of deaths didn’t happen because of the actions cities and counties took, that this legislation directly addresses and – in vast large part – would prohibit us from doing.”
Mayor Kriseman said he believes the governor and legislature seem more interested in businesses than they are in public health and safety.
The mayor also noted he thinks the governor’s orders will be challenged legally.
Former Florida governor and current U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist slammed DeSantis’ actions as well, calling it “government overreach.”
“Governor DeSantis’ actions today strip local leaders of their ability to make decisions that protect their citizens. It’s government overreach at its worst. Governor DeSantis is enabling the spread of the coronavirus while Florida is seeing 5,000 new cases of coronavirus daily and nearly 36,000 people tragically lost,” Crist said in a statement. “Governor DeSantis failed to lead during the pandemic, leaving local officials as the last line of defense against the pandemic, forcing them to make the hard decisions to save lives.”