Leon County on Monday evening said its mask ordinance was “no longer in effect” now that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued executive orders countermanding local coronavirus emergency measures.
The governor signed into law a measure (SB 2006) that goes into effect in July, giving him the ability to override local ordinances. But he also issued an order that immediately suspended city and county-level restrictions.
Leon County’s mask mandate was enacted last June, but had already had its teeth pulled by an earlier action by the governor. The ordinance’s enforceability, like others around the state, was nullified by an earlier DeSantis executive order that no fines or penalties could be levied by local governments.
Later Monday, Leon County Commission Chairman Rick Minor said the board would repeal its ordinance but, effective immediately, the requirement to wear a mask was “no longer in effect.”
Individual businesses, however, may still require mask wearing as a condition of entering stores and buildings.
Irrespective of the Governor’s order, I hope people and businesses will continue to follow the latest CDC guidelines,” Minor wrote in a statement. “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.”
Chair of the Leon County Republican Party Evan Power hailed the executive order.
“Today @GovRonDeSantis took large steps to keep Florida free now and in the future,” he wrote on Twitter.
The governor’s executive order does not impact precautions put in place by local school districts, according to Florida education officials
The Leon County School District is planning on requiring masks and continuing its protocols until June 10 when the spring semester wraps up, spokesman Chris Petley said.
“Our plan is to continue with the procedures we have in place until the end of the school year,” he said. “That is what we’re focused on, making sure that happens until the end of the school year.”
DeSantis pointed to the number of Floridians who have been vaccinated against the virus and said mandated restrictions go against having faith in the vaccines.
“The reason you get it is because we want to have people be able to enjoy themselves and live freely in the state of Florida,” he said earlier Monday during a press conference in St. Petersburg.
He also noted that stores and other businesses can still require mask-wearing: “This does not deal with that, one way or another.”
Florida reported far fewer coronavirus cases in the week ending Sunday, adding 34,194 new cases. That’s down 13.8% from the previous week’s tally of 39,683 new cases of the virus that causes COVID-19.
Leon County reported 452 cases and six deaths in the latest week. A week earlier, it had reported 290 cases and two deaths. Throughout the pandemic the county has reported 31,699 cases and 317 deaths.
The legislation signed Monday, passed in the final days of the legislative session taht ended last week, also makes permanent an executive order from last month prohibiting businesses, schools, or the government from requiring documentation of COVID-19 vaccination or recovery from the virus.
Extending the measure ensures Florida is “respectful of peoples’ jobs, businesses, schools and peoples’ personal freedoms,” he said.