ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Florida's governor says he's suspending all local emergency orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic effective immediately.
During a news conference in St. Peterburg on Monday, Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, signed an executive order that suspends all local coronavirus mandates right away, and will also invalidate all remaining local emergency COVID-19 orders effective July 1.
"I think the approach here is showing Florida leading the way," DeSantis said.
The order suspends all local ordinances that require people in Florida to wear a mask while in public. Private businesses can still require masks upon entry and enforce social distancing and other protective measures.
DeSantis on Monday said local governments have overstepped their authority by putting restrictions on businesses and keeping children out of in-person education.
"Over the last year, we've seen some of the abuses. We want to make sure we stop that," DeSantis said. "[The governor's executive order] not only reigns in the ability of local governments to do this stuff, it provides more check against the state."
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance stating that fully-vaccinated people can safely gather outdoors in small groups without masks. However, the CDC still recommends mask use for most indoor activities and large outdoor gatherings.
Those who are not fully vaccinated are still advised to wear masks whenever in public, the CDC says.
In addition to the emergency order suspending local COVID-19 mandates, DeSantis on Monday also signed a new law which says that during any emergency — with the exception of hurricane emergencies — businesses should be free from government mandates to close, and schools should remain open for in-person instruction.
The order says local governments can't close businesses or keep children out of in-person instruction "unless they satisfy demanding and continuous justification."
Any local emergency orders, excluding hurricane emergencies, will be capped at seven-day increments "and may only be extended to a maximum duration of 42 days."
Finally, the order says the governor can invalidate any local emergency order if it "unnecessarily restricts individual rights or liberties," the new law states.
"I think that's the evidence-based thing to do," DeSantis said. "I think folks that are saying that they need to be policing people at this point, if you're saying that, you really are saying you don't believe in the vaccines."
The governor cited the widespread availability of COVID-19 vaccines as a prime reason why Floridians should be free of any local mandates.
"We focused on lifting people up. We wanted people going back to work. We wanted our kids to be in school," DeSantis said. "We wanted our economy to be healthy. We wanted our society to be healthy."
This story was originally published by Matt Papaycik on Scripps station WPTV in Palm Beach, Florida.