Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Monday signed a bill that would ban COVID-19 vaccine passports in the state and also announced a new executive order suspending all local pandemic-related emergency orders.
Businesses, schools, and government agencies in the state are now prohibited by law from requiring people to show documentation proving that they've had COVID-19 vaccinations or have recovered from the virus before gaining entry to their buildings.
The bill also gives Gov. DeSantis the authority to override local health orders during a health emergency and directs state agencies to develop plans for future pandemics.
In his remarks before signing the bill, DeSantis also announced a new executive order that will terminate all local coronavirus emergency orders in the state on July 1. In the meantime, the governor said he will use his executive authority to suspend local COVID restrictions until his executive order goes into effect.
"I'm going to sign the bill, it's effective July 1st. I'll also sign an executive order pursuant to that bill invalidating all remaining local emergency COVID orders effective on July 1st," DeSantis said at a press conference in St. Petersburg. "But then, to bridge the gap between then and now, I'm going to suspend under my executive power the local emergency orders as it relates to COVID."
"I think that's the evidence-based thing to do," he added. "I think folks that are saying that they need to be policing people at this point, if you're saying that, you really are saying you don't believe in the vaccines, you don't believe in the data, you don't believe in the science. We've embraced the vaccines, we've embraced the science on it."
The governor's order will apply only to state and local governments. Private businesses will be free to impose their own health and safety policies, including social distancing or requiring face coverings, as they see fit.
DeSantis criticized local and state governments in other parts of the country for continuing to implement new COVID restrictions even as vaccine distribution continues and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance saying Americans do not need to wear masks outdoors unless they are in a large crowd.
"I read Brookline, Massachusetts, did an outdoor mask mandate, or extended that. Even the CDC says that doesn't make a difference," DeSantis said. "Washington D.C. just banned dancing at weddings. So they're literally going to have law enforcement there policing people's weddings that say you can't dance when this is kinda the day you've been waiting for?"