Governor DeSantis Lifts Local COVID Emergency Orders
Local Mask and Social Distancing Orders Ended
Governor Also Signs Bill Barring COVID Passports
On May 3, 2021, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued an executive order ending immediately all existing emergency orders issued by a county or municipality that imposes restrictions or mandates upon businesses or individuals due to the COVID-19 emergency. The Governor’s order also prohibits local governments from reissuing similar emergency restrictions. The move was intended to eliminate mask and social distancing requirements that were part of local governments’ emergency actions related to the COVID-19 emergency.
The order, however, made clear that it only applies to local measures that were based on the COVID-19 state of emergency, and that it does not prohibit “a political subdivision of the State from enacting ordinances pursuant to regular enactment procedures to protect the health, safety, and welfare of its population.” For instance, the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners passed an ordinance in July 2020 that prohibits a business from preventing a person from wearing a face covering if they want, including employees and contractors. At a Commission meeting earlier in the week, the Hillsborough County Attorney verified that this ordinance is still in effect following the Governor’s order.
Also on May 3, the Governor signed into law Senate Bill 2006, which prohibits businesses from requiring vaccine passports. Specifically, the bill bars businesses from requiring “patrons or customers to provide any documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccination or post-infection recovery to gain access to, entry upon, or service from the business . . .” The legislation also notes that it “does not otherwise restrict businesses from instituting screening protocols consistent with authoritative or controlling government-issued guidance to protect public health.”