Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is suspending all local COVID-19 emergency orders in the state.
Speaking at a news conference in St. Petersburg, DeSantis said he was suspending the local orders under his executive power. He said he was also signing an executive order invalidating all remaining local emergency orders that will become effective on July 1.
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"I think that's the evidence-based thing to do," DeSantis 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. We've embraced the vaccines, we've embraced the science on it."
A separate bill DeSantis signed that also becomes effective on July 1 will limit the time a local government is able to close businesses and schools.
The Republican governor brought up other states where restrictions and mask mandates remain in place, arguing that some of them aren't effective.
"My message is, the vaccines protect you, get vaccinated, and then live your life as if you're protected. You don't have to chafe under restrictions infinitum," DeSantis said.
DeSantis' order doesn't prevent a private business from enforcing their own restrictions, though the bill bans businesses from requiring so-called "vaccine passports."
Not everyone was pleased with the suspension of local emergency orders. Broward County Mayor Steve Geller, a Democrat, held a news conference to criticize the move.
"It appears to me that by virtue of this order that Gov. DeSantis is issuing an executive order saying that the COVID-19 crisis is over in Florida. I hope that he is correct and I am wrong," Geller said. "It is my belief that we still need to be careful and have certain limited common sense reactions in order to ensure that the crisis stays under control."
Many places, including Miami-Dade and Broward, have lifted restrictions on outdoor activities. Some have still been mandating the use of a face mask and physical distancing indoors, but have been doing little to enforce those rules in large part because the state hasn't allowed them to collect fines.
Geller said his legal team was reviewing the governor's order to make sure he has the authority, though he said it's likely he does.
"I am concerned with the actions of the governor, it appears to me, speaking personally, that this demonstrates that he seems to care more about politics than the public safety in the state of Florida," Geller said.
Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava also expressed her concerns.
"I’m deeply concerned by this decision. We are still in a public health emergency and our economy has not fully rebounded from crisis. Fewer than half of our residents have been vaccinated, and we face a growing threat from variants," Levine Cava said in a statement. "I urge our community to continue using common sense to prevent the spread of the virus and most importantly, to get vaccinated – our best and only path forward to truly put the pandemic behind us."
Both Miami-Dade and Broward public schools districts said the governor's order will not impact their health protocols and will remain in place for now.
"The Governor’s executive order is not intended to apply to a School Board policy. The School Board of Broward County, FL policy on this matter remains in effect, as the District continues working closely with local and federal health experts on current and future school safety protocols," Broward County Public Schools said in a statement.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools said the district consulted with the Florida Department of Education and said it confirmed that the order does not impact "any school district's policies for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year."