South Florida leaders blindsided by DeSantis order lifting COVID-19 restrictions

Governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive order overturning all local COVID-19 emergency orders in the state. Other states and cities are also easing restrictions as more people get vaccinated and outbreaks decline.

Although the governor was met with enthusiasm during his news conference in St. Petersburg on Monday, some local leaders say they were blindsided by the announcement, and fear it undermines their authority to protect residents.

“Any time that local government is preempted by the state, it just sends a message that we don’t matter,” Commissioner Melissa McKinlay told CBS12 News. “To completely just yank the rug out from what should be a partner in this pandemic response is uncalled for.”

Palm Beach County officials recently extended the county mask mandate through May 18.

Now with the sweep of a pen, Gov. DeSantis says that is no longer enforceable, though businesses can still decide what their mask policy is for customers.

“In terms of what a grocery store or a Disney theme park chooses to do, this does not deal with that one way or another,” he said. “This bill applies to government action.”

Rep. Lois Frankel (Fl-21) released this statement late Monday afternoon in response to DeSantis’ suspension of local COVID-19 orders:

I strongly disagree with Governor DeSantis stripping local governments of the powers they need to keep their communities safe. The COVID-19 pandemic is not over. Vaccine hesitation and the refusal to wear masks and social distance by too many people still prevents us from getting back to normal. It’s too early to stop using every tool we have to protect Americans from COVID-19.