Potential shutdowns have been shut down again by Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who extended an executive order he first issued in September aimed at barring local governments from enacting business shutdowns in response to the coronavirus.
A two-page extension, issued Tuesday, said the state “continues to suffer economic harm as a result of COVID-19 related closures, exacerbating the impacts of the State of Emergency, and Floridians should not be prohibited by local governments from working or operating a business.”
The extension will remain in effect until the pandemic-induced state of emergency is lifted.
The initial order issued on Sept. 25 banned local laws that could “prevent an individual from working or from operating a business.”
The initial order forestalled any local efforts to force restaurants to operate below 50 percent indoor capacity and put the burden of proof on any local government that wanted to impose rules limiting indoor capacity of a business.
Although the September order did not ban laws requiring masks, it blocked collecting fines for violating such laws.’
DeSantis has taken a strong position against shutdowns.
“I hear people say they’ll shut down the country, and, honestly, I cringe,” DeSantis said in September, according to USA Today.
DeSantis opposed lockdowns in an October speech, according to Florida Politics.
“Biden has said if some scientist tells him to shut down he’s going to shut down the country. That would ruin millions of lives. It will cost many lives, I think we’re seeing with some of that. And it’s totally unacceptable from what we know now,” DeSantis said. “We cannot let that happen.”
“We’re not going to let them shut our schools. We’re not going to let them close our businesses. We are not going to let them shut down this country,” He added.
But as the virus surges, some local officials are concerned about the future.
“We’re fortunate in our community that we haven’t exceeded the capacity of our local hospital systems,” said Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, according to the Orlando Sentinel. “But I don’t want to wait until it gets so bad so that we have to take other draconian methods to gain compliance.”
“Counties and cities need to have the flexibility to make choices to respond to what’s happening in their [jurisdictions] and, when you take away the enforcement measures, they’re no longer able to respond based on infection rates or hospital capacity or other health data,” Cragin Mosteller, a spokeswoman for the Florida Association of Counties, said.
“Those are local numbers and therefore should be addressed by local decisions.”
One attorney said that officials who feel strongly that the health of their residents is at risk might defy DeSantis.
“If you wanted to pick a battle — even if you thought you’d lose — this is one to pick,” said Cliff Shepard, a government law attorney who is not part of a local government. “The bulldog thing to do is say, ‘Let them sue me and we’ll just deal with it,’ while knowing that he’d likely lose, but to go down fighting.”
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.