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

Surrounded by lawmakers, Florida Gov.Ron DeSantis speaks at the end of a legislative session, Friday, April 30, 2021, at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla.

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 bill 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,” said DeSantis at a bill signing ceremony in St. Petersburg.

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

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As the measure wound through committees, opponents warned 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 since 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 roadmap 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.”

Follow reporter James Call on Twitter: @CallTallahassee

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