Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has extended an order that bans localities in the state from enforcing mask mandates, seen as one of the simplest and most effective government measures to slow the spread of coronavirus, even as data shows the strain on the state’s health care system continuing to worsen.
Florida Democrats sharply criticized the governor’s decision, including Daniella Levine Cava, the new mayor of Miami-Dade County, who called it “deeply frustrating.”
Chris King, the 2018 Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, tweeted a local news story about the decision and tweeted: “Alternate headline: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Continues Killing Spree.”
DeSantis’ decision came less than a week after a bipartisan group of mayors held a meeting at which they pleaded for the governor to allow mask mandates to be enforced.
The governor is reportedly no longer returning phone calls from south Florida mayors.
Florida is the largest state to have essentially lifted all Covid-19 restrictions, after DeSantis allowed for restaurants and bars to reopen at 100% capacity, starting in September.
The September order also prohibited localities from collecting fines for mask mandates, which functioned to limit the enforcement of mandates anywhere in the state.
“@GovRonDeSantis continues to block local actions and make it harder for local leaders to keep our communities safe,” Levine Cava said in a tweet Wednesday.
The city of Miami Beach is planning to go ahead with enforcement of its mask mandate anyway, to the furthest extent allowed. The city will reportedly issue citations, including a $50 fine, over the holiday weekend to anyone in violation of the city’s mask mandate who refuses to even wear a mask provided by law enforcement. But while the governor’s order is in place, the city cannot legally collect that fine. A city spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment from Forbes for more details on how the enforcement will work.
All but 13 states now have statewide mask mandates in place. The 13 states without mask mandates all have Republican governors, representing half of all GOP governors in the United States. Some Republicans have continued to show a reluctance to issue mask mandates, even as records have continued to be set for new cases, while hospitals fill up and deaths skyrocket. In North Dakota, Republican Gov. Doug Burgum issued a mask mandate on November 14, but only after the state took the unprecedented step of allowing Covid-positive nurses to continue working in some cases. Data has also shown that statewide mask mandates are better for the economy than local directives.
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Two U.S. Senators—Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)—announced legislation that would prohibit states without mask mandates from tapping into a $5 billion pool for grant funding.