Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said Thursday that he'll pardon anyone in the state who has been charged for violating COVID-19 safety measures like masking and social distancing. DeSantis made the announcement on Fox News while discussing the case of two gym owners who faced criminal penalties for refusing to enforce social distancing and mask mandates in their establishment.
DeSantis said he would sign a reprieve on Friday that would delay the case against gym owners Mike and Jillian Carnevale for 60 days, adding that during that time, a clemency board will meet to issue pardons for them and other Florida residents.
"When our clemency board meets in the coming weeks, we'll issue pardons not only for Mike and Jillian, but for any Floridian that may have outstanding infractions for things like masks and social distancing," DeSantis said in the interview, which included the Carnivales and "The Ingraham Angle" host Laura Ingraham.
"These things with health should be advisory. They should not be punitive," he added.
The former Broward County gym owners were arrested last summer on three different occasions for defying COVID-19 mandates, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel. The couple eventually had their gym closed down following warnings from local police.
In July 2020, Mike filed a civil lawsuit against the county seeking relief from the emergency order, which prohibited most gatherings, instated a curfew and enforced social distancing, the Sentinel reported.
"As soon as I heard that Mike and Jillian Carnevale were facing criminal penalties, like possible jail time, for not requiring masks at their gym I stepped in to shield them from this local government overreach," DeSantis tweeted on Thursday, alongside a video of his Fox News appearance.
The governor's announcement follows his decisionto immediately suspend all local COVID-19 emergency mandates in the state. DeSantis also said he will be outlawing the mandates beginning July 1. He said his administration wants people to "live freely in the state of Florida" and to "enjoy themselves."
DeSantis also passed legislation in March that waived fines on those who broke COVID-19 mandates.