(CW44 News At 10) - Governor Ron DeSantis signed an emergency order that will do away with all local COVID-19 emergency orders throughout the state.
He says telling people they have to follow COVID-19 restrictions undermines public confidence in vaccines.
One of the biggest groups impacted by this change is local businesses.
At LaLa's Sangria Bar in the Channelside district of Tampa, owner John English says he's excited to finally have a sense of normalcy again, adding "we were actually excited about it." But he's also going to keep certain COVID-19 precautions in place, like keeping hand sanitizer readily available for any customers who need it.
Pete Boland, manager of Mary Margaret's Old Irish Tavern, says "It was about time. I think the tone and the feeling here in downtown St. Pete and where I've traveled a little over the rest of Florida in recent weeks, it certainly doesn't feel like an emergency anymore."
Local bar owners say it's been a tough year for the industry, especially when it comes to mask-wearing. "It's been very difficult to enforce from the very beginning," said Boland.
After Governor DeSantis signed an executive order on Monday, eliminating all local COVID-19 restrictions across the state, bar owners say they feel relieved.
"It's hard to go to a restaurant or bar and eat or drink with a mask on," said Boland.
Governor DeSantis' new executive order allows private businesses to decide what COVID-19 precautions they want to continue to enforce, if any, but local governments cannot require restrictions.
"If there weren't so many vaccines available now, and there was a vaccine shortage, then I get the whole thing, you want to make sure everybody's protected. But at this point, it's so readily available, that if someone doesn't get the vaccine it's their choice," said English.
"That is an anti-science posture to enforce all of these restrictions even with mass vaccination," said DeSantis. He also signed a bill Monday that would keep local governments from closing businesses and schools despite previous COVID-19 policies.
English says it is a step in the right direction. "In the hospitality industry, people need to see your facial expressions to feel a certain way."
Boland says he has updated his restaurant's air filtration system but will no longer require masks. "Put some of our partisan politics aside and start letting people know that it's okay to go live your life and return to normalcy."
The bill Governor DeSantis signed Monday morning will take effect on July 1, 2021. It also reinforces an emergency order banning vaccine passports, which prevents businesses, schools, and other organizations across the state from requiring people to provide proof they have been vaccinated.
Please be advised that schools and places of business may still impose mandates, such as Hillsborough County Public Schools that sent an email Tuesday morning that reads:
With fewer than four weeks in the 2020-2021 school year, Hillsborough County Public Schools remains committed to closing out this year with the health of our students and staff at the forefront.
All HCPS health and safety protocols will remain in effect through the end of this school year, including requiring face coverings for all students and staff while on campus.
The Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) sent out guidance late yesterday confirming that the Governor's orders DO NOT apply to school districts instead they ONLY impact city and county government entities. The FLDOE specifically states neither EO-21-101 nor EO-21-102 impact any school district's policies for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year.
We thank our students and staff for their resilience this year and for following all protocols.
Please see below for the guidance issued by the Florida Department of Education.
Guidance on State of Florida's Executive Orders 21-101 and 21-102:
To clarify, EO-21-102 only impacts city and county governments, and does NOT impact school districts and individual schools.
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