TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive order suspending all COVID-19 emergency orders and limiting local emergency orders. The new bill is effective July 1, 2021.
He also made permanent an executive order barring COVID-19 vaccine passports.
"We are no longer in a state of emergency," DeSantis said.
DeSantis signed the bill during a press conference in St. Petersburg on Monday, May 3, 2021.
People in Southwest Florida have strong feelings about the governor’s decision, like Mary Helmstetter of Fort Myers.
“Hallelujah!” she said.
She has asthma and says wearing a mask has made things difficult for her.
“This makes it worse,” she said pointing to her mask. “My doctor tells me it makes it worse. But you don’t have any choice in the matter.”
Now she does to some extent. the governor’s order lifts any emergency mandates put in place by local governments, including mask mandates that are in place in Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel.
Governor DeSantis says the order protects people’s rights.
“As governor I’ll have the authority to invalidate a local emergency order if it unnecessarily restricts individual rights or liberties,” he said.
Brandon Nash in Lee County says the order comes at the right time.
“I think it’s been slowly improving over the last several months. And with people getting vaccinated, I think that it’s a better time to get out and about,” he said.
New COVID-19 case numbers have dropped significantly statewide and locally. In Lee County new daily cases would increase by one or two thousand from day to day back in December. Now, it’s closer to a few hundred over the span of a few days. The Florida Department of Health is still reporting thousands of new cases statewide everyday.
Governor DeSantis says it’s time to put trust in the vaccines. The Centers for Disease Control says people who are fully vaccinated can gather with other vaccinated people indoors without masks or social distancing. But, they say they should still wear their masks in large crowds, even outdoors.
“When you have people in Washington saying yeah, get vaccinated, but make sure you continue to social distance and wear masks all the time. Well, their message that they’re sending to people is that the vaccines don’t work,” said Governor DeSantis.
But not everyone shares Helmstetter’s enthusiasm for the executive order, like Jackie Rivera.
“I think it’s too early to lift all the restrictions,” she said.
Rivera says she’ll keep wearing her mask and her daughter Yvanka, like many Americans is skeptical of the vaccines.
“We don’t know if the new vaccine is actually going to do anything for us or you know, we don’t know how other people are being affected by it,” she said.
100 million people in the U.S. have been vaccinated, and so far less than six thousand have still contracted COVID-19.
Sanibel has extended their mask mandate since September. The governor’s order now limits local emergency orders to just seven days and they can only be extended up to 42 days. That excludes orders related to hurricanes.
The order also bars COVID-19 vaccine passports. The law will officially go into effect July 1st. Governor DeSantis has ordered all restrictions be suspended until then.
DeSantis says stores and other businesses can still require mask-wearing, saying, "this does not deal with that, one way or another."
DeSantis never issued a statewide mask requirement.