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Jax Daily Record Monday, May 3, 202101:01 PM EST

DeSantis ends local government COVID-19 emergency orders 

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Duval County has no pandemic policies that will be impacted by the move.
by: Mike Mendenhall Staff Writer

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order May 3 that cancels local government emergency orders related to the coronavirus pandemic before a bill approved by the Florida Legislature doing the same goes into effect July 1.

DeSantis issued the order during a signing ceremony for the bill in St. Petersburg that puts new local limits on the state’s Emergency Management Act, excluding hurricanes, and invalidates city and county face mask mandates, social distancing and other restrictions. 

The order also bans the use of “vaccine passports” used to allow inoculated people take part in travel and other activities.

DeSantis said the order is meant to bridge the time gap until the bill becomes law.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry allowed Duval County’s nine-month face mask mandate to expire in March. The county does not have any COVID-19 policies that will be impacted by the order, according to city Director of Public Affairs Nikki Kimbleton. 

St. Johns, Nassau, Clay and Baker counties were under a COVID-19 state of emergency when the order was signed.

DeSantis cited the effectiveness of three COVID-19 vaccines as justification for the executive order. 

“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 you’re saying you don’t believe in the vaccines, you don’t believe in the data, you don’t believe in the science,” he said. 

According to Daily Record news partner News4Jax.com, the order comes as health officials, including White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, say opening Florida without coronavirus precautions in place is a “risky proposition” as variants of the virus continue to be detected.

News4Jax said the Florida Department of Health recorded 3,916 new COVID cases on May 2, bringing the state’s overall total to 2.24 million since March 1, 2020. 

Florida reported 31 new virus-related deaths May 2, bringing the death toll to 35,968, News4Jax reports.

More than 104 million people in the U.S. are fully vaccinated as of May 2, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

The Florida law will prohibit state and local governments from closing private businesses or restricting in-person education unless they can “satisfy demanding and continuous justification,” DeSantis said.

Private businesses and property owners can continue COVID-19 safety protocols for employees and customers under the law.

The legislature also limited local emergency orders to seven days and can only be extended for 42 days. 

The bill signed by DeSantis also allows the governor to invalidate orders that he deems unnecessarily restrictive to individual rights and liberties.

“It not only reigns in the ability of local governments to do this stuff, it provides more checks against the state, which I fully support,” DeSantis said.

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