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Local COVID-19 Restrictions No Longer In Effect After DeSantis Signs Executive Order; Leon Lifts Mask Mandate

A screenshot of the state's coronavirus dashboard showing current rates of infection as of 5/4/21.
Florida Department of Health
A screenshot of the state's coronavirus dashboard showing current rates of infection as of 5/4/21.

Local COVID-19 restrictions can no longer be enforced following an executive order signed Monday by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. The governor says his directive is meant to accelerate the state’s economic recovery amid greater COVID-19 vaccine availability.

“Infection and hospitalization rates vary greatly among the 67 counties of our very large state and a one-size fits all approach is a little bit of an overreach here," said Tallahassee City Commissioner Jack Porter.

The executive order does not preempt directives private businesses may issue, nor does it impact local school district mask ordinances. Due to the order, Leon County's mask ordinance is no longer in effect.

“The vaccines are working, but Florida hasn’t yet reached herd immunity and our state is still the nation’s #1 hotspot for B.1.1.7, the more contagious COVID-19 variant,” said Leon County Commission Chairman Rick Minor. “Irrespective of the Governor’s order, I hope people and businesses will continue to follow the latest CDC guidelines. We agree with the Governor that we’re winning the pandemic war, but to me it just seems like the wrong time to pack up the ammunition.”

The Leon County Commission will formally repeal its ordinance "at a future date."

DeSantis' executive order comes the same day the governor signed a new law banning so-called vaccine passports and limiting local government’s emergency powers.

“Over the last year we’ve avoided protracted lockdowns and school closures in Florida because I have refused to take the same approach as other lockdown Governors. This legislation ensures that legal safeguards are in place so that local governments cannot arbitrarily close our schools or businesses,” said DeSantis in a statement issued by his office.

“In Florida, your personal choice regarding vaccinations will be protected and no business or government entity will be able to deny you services based on your decision."

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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