ST. PETERSBURG – Local government emergency orders regarding COVID-19 have been invalidated statewide under an executive order that Gov. Ron DeSantis issued Monday, May 3.
At a press conference in St. Petersburg, DeSantis said the suspension of local emergency COVID orders will remain in effect until a new state law he signed today on emergency management procedures takes effect July 1.
The new law, passed last week as Senate Bill 2006, will limit local government’s emergency powers during future non-hurricane related emergencies regarding business closures, school closures and other quality of life issues for Floridians.
“I’ll also sign an executive order pursuant to that bill invalidating all remaining local emergency COVID orders effective on July 1,” DeSantis said. “To bridge the gap between then and now, I’m going to suspend, under my executive power, the local emergency orders as it related to COVID. 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 are saying you don’t believe in the vaccine. You don’t believe in the data. You don’t believe in the science. We’ve embraced the vaccines. We’ve embraced the science on it. It’s even better in real life.”
Regarding the COVID-19 vaccines themselves, DeSantis said, “It’s available. We want everyone to get it and if you get it just know the reason you get it is because we want people to enjoy themselves and live freely in the state of Florida.”
When contacted Monday afternoon regarding the governor’s actions, Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy said, “We will discuss our options at next Thursday’s (May 13) city commission meeting.”
The city of Bradenton Beach has no COVID-related emergency orders in effect other than its ongoing declaration of a local state of emergency. When contacted Monday, City Attorney Ricinda Perry said, “I plan to recommend termination of the local state of emergency.”
That anticipated action is expected to occur during Wednesday’s weekly emergency commission meeting.
Regarding the city hall mask requirement, Perry said, “I need to read the Governor’s order, but I believe all regulations should be lifted. That’s an administrative office requirement that would also go away. City Clerk Terri Sanclemente confirmed that wearing a mask will now be up to each individual but will not be required inside city hall.”
Holmes Beach Mayor Judy Titsworth said, “I urge everyone to get the vaccines. Unfortunately, they are not available for children.”
When asked if the city plans to continue its mask requirement inside city hall and at other city facilities, Titsworth said, “I think it’s important.”
The city commission meets again on Tuesday, May 11, and the governor’s order and its impacts are expected to be topics of discussion.
Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer said, “If the commission decides they want to keep that mask order for the city building and the City Field, that’s something they will address at that time. If they want to go with the more relaxed approach, then they’ll make that decision at that time as well.
“As for the businesses, we have left it up to them to police their own businesses. If they want to continue to err on the side of caution and have people wear masks inside their businesses it’s up to them to post signs and to discuss it with those not wearing masks. If someone refuses to comply, they can call the police and we would respond and take whatever action is necessary,” Tokajer said.
Without having seen anything in writing from the governor’s office yet, Tokajer was asked if he believes the police department can still trespass, at the request of the business representative, a patron who refuses to wear a mask inside the business.
“Yes, we do. Any business can refuse business to any patron as long as it’s justified,” Tokajer said.