We’ve seen a number of changes made recently regarding COVID-19 precautions, rules, and regulations.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated their guidance for wearing masks outdoors, particularly as to those who are fully vaccinated. And we’ve seen the Orange County, Florida mayor relax distancing rules and announce changes coming to the mask mandate. But now we’ve got a big update from the Florida Governor regarding local COVID-19 rules in the state.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is “suspending all local COVID-19 emergency orders with an executive order today.” The Executive Order will “invalidate all local COVID-19 emergency orders, and issue a stop-gap directive to halt the orders now.”
According to the Orlando Sentinel, Governor DeSantis also signed a bill into law that would make his COVID-19 vaccine passport ban a permanent law. The bill he signed recently also gives the Legislature more power to “overrule any emergency mandates or restrictions by the governor, the governor the authority to overrule cities and counties, and city and county commissions the power to overrule mayors.”
Under that bill, an emergency order issued by a city or county must be “limited in duration, applicability, and scope in order to reduce any infringement on individual rights or liberties to the greatest extent possible.” Any such emergency orders would then “automatically expire after seven days and would have to be extended by city or county commissions every week for 42 days.” Additionally, the law states that at any time the governor can invalidate any local emergency order.
That legislation becomes effective on July 1st. In the meantime, it appears this Executive Order is being signed to “bridge the gap.”
Executive Order Number 21-101, notes that “any emergency order issued by a political subdivision due to the COVID-19 emergency which restricts the rights or liberties of individuals or their businesses is invalidated.” But, it notes that nothing in the Executive Order prohibits political subdivisions from “enacting ordinances pursuant to regular enactment procedures to protect the health, safety, and welfare of its local population. Only the COVID-19 emergency orders, as defined in SB 2006, enacted prior to July I, 2021, are hereby invalidated.”
In a separate executive order, Executive Order Number 21-102, the Governor notes that “the State and the majority of local governments have declined to issue mask mandates” but that “a select number of local governments continue to impose mandates and business restrictions.” The Executive Order then declares that “all local COVID-19 restrictions and mandates on individuals and businesses are hereby suspended.”
It also notes that the Executive Order specifically “eliminates and supersedes any existing emergency order or ordinance issued by a county or municipality that imposes restrictions or mandates upon businesses or individuals due to the COVID-19 emergency.”
The Executive Order also states that for the remaining duration of Florida’s state of emergency, counties and municipalities cannot renew or enact emergency orders or ordinances using a local state of emergency or other specific emergency enactment procedures that impose “restrictions or mandates upon businesses or individuals due to the COVID-19 emergency.”
Keep in mind, from a federal perspective, the Transportation Security Administration recently extended its requirement that masks be worn on all planes, forms of public transportation, and other specific areas.
It is our understanding that this executive order from Governor DeSantis would impact the enforceability of the local COVID-19 rules and regulations in place in Orange County, Florida, such as the mask mandate, which was created via an executive order from the Orange County mayor some time ago.
During a press conference held previously, Mayor Demings noted that he was declining to comment on the Executive Order at the moment, as he had not yet seen the text of it.
Update: Mayor Demings has since released a statement about the situation. In it, he notes that “Orange County Government will continue to review its statutory authority and will respond accordingly.” We’ll keep an eye out for any updates or statements from Mayor Demings of Orange County, Florida.
In terms of how the Florida bill would affect a place like Disney World, during a press conference Governor DeSantis said, “This bill applies to government action…In terms of what a…Disney theme park [chooses to do], this doesn’t have to do with that.” The section of the bill regarding the ban of vaccine passports, however, does restrict businesses from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination in order to serve customers.
Essentially, Disney, which is a private company, and other private businesses, can continue to require guests to wear masks and take certain other actions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Disney does currently require all guests ages 2 and up to wear masks in the parks at all times, except when specifically allowed to be removed, like when eating or drinking while distanced and stationary. Guests are also still required to maintain an appropriate social distance from others in the park. Guests who fail to wear an approved mask appropriate will be asked to leave the park.
We’ll keep an eye out for more information and let you know what we find.
Click here to see more about how the mask mandate from the TSA has been extended for planes and public transportation in the United States.
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