After Gov. Ron DeSantis lifted local emergency orders related to the pandemic Monday morning, Democrats suggested the move might be premature.
“The fact is, we are no longer in a state of emergency,” DeSantis said at a press conference in St. Pete to announce the termination of local emergency orders. Six days earlier, DeSantis signed an order to extend Florida’s state of emergency.
Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives, Broward Rep. Evan Jenne and Tampa Rep. Fentrice Driskell, at a regularly scheduled press conference Monday afternoon, talked about the Governor’s termination of local emergency orders.
“I think to lift everything, and simply say that’s it’s over, that’s not true,” Jenne said.
“I think that was a move in the wrong direction,” Driskell said.
Jenne said the blanket move to lift all emergency orders across the state is a reversal of the Governor’s own regional strategy employed during the pandemic.
“One of the real bright spots was how, during the handling of the pandemic, the Governor really allowed certain counties, especially down here in South Florida — some of the more built up and populous counties — allowed them to make some of their own moves,” Jenne said. “I think that was one of the smartest things that Gov. DeSantis did. So, this is a complete reversal of one of the things that I would actually praise him for.”
During the pandemic, DeSantis allowed the state’s more populous counties to enact their own local COVID-19 strategies, such as mask mandates.
DeSantis said businesses, under his new order, can still choose to enact their own policies regarding COVID-19 protocols like mask requirements or temperature checks, though they cannot require any proof of coronavirus vaccinations.
A current executive order in effect makes businesses or other institutions who require proof of a COVID-19 vaccine or a vaccine passport ineligible for state funding or grants. New state laws (SB 2006) banning vaccine passports will take effect in July. Under those laws, businesses, schools or institutions that require proof of a COVID-19 vaccine could be fined up to $5,000 for each affected customer or student.
Driskell said a ban on vaccine passports, a safety measure some businesses, like cruise lines, want to employ, is a reversal of long-held Republican priorities to let industry run itself.
“It’s been an interesting sort of role reversal that we’re seeing with Republican leadership where they keep trying to tell businesses and corporations how to do their job and how to run their business. It’s just, it’s very strange to me. And again, I think a move in the wrong direction,” Driskell said.
DeSantis said requiring proof of a coronavirus vaccine is an imposition on an individual’s liberties and privacy.
Jenne suggested the vaccine passport ban is a political move based on a possible presidential run by DeSantis in 2024.
“I have been in this Process. I just completed my 13th Session. And typically, the Republican Party of Florida has been a real advocate for not imposing regulations on businesses. So, I’m wondering if this isn’t part of a larger plan for a potential run at a larger office, which I think is in the offering. Here in the next couple of years, we’ll find out,” Jenne said.
DeSantis has called comments about a possible run by him for President “speculation.”
DeSantis is using his current executive power to terminate the local emergency orders through June, but after that the termination is made possible by new laws that take effect July 1 in an emergency management bill the Governor signed during Monday’s press conference. An executive order to start July 1 the Governor also signed Monday hinges on a provision in the bill that authorizes him to override any emergency order that “unnecessarily restricts individuals’ rights or liberties.”
Jenne pointed to the daily coronavirus death toll Sunday, which was 29 according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for the reason local emergency orders should not be lifted. The Florida Department of Health on Sunday also reported 29 new Florida resident deaths from its Saturday report.
“All of us really have been becoming too numb to what’s going on out there. 30 deaths just looks like another day in Florida. So, I think it’s probably premature. But only time is going to tell,” Jenne said.