“Don’t Run Afoul Of State Law” Are Florida Mayors Defying Gov. DeSantis With Mask Mandates?

Masks will be required at indoor county facilities in Florida’s Miami-Dade district following new CDC guidance recommending that even the vaccinated people should wear facial masks.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said her decision was in response to the surge in new COVID cases, “We have all come too far. We have all sacrificed too much in this past almost year and a half. We cannot turn back now.”

In Orange County, Mayor Jerry Demings announced that all 4,200 nonunion county employees will be required to get their first coronavirus vaccine shot by the end of August, and the second shot by the end of September. 

According to a notice posted on Disney’s Orlando theme park website, masks will be required for all guests ages 2 and up while they are indoors and in Disney buses, monorail, and Disney Skyliner.

The new rules apply “regardless of vaccination status,” the release says. 

This aligns with the recommendations from Mayor Demings and the CDC.

“We want to keep our county and theme parks open for business,” Mayor Jerry Demings said at a news conference Wednesday. “By instituting these measures, we want everyone to know, in Orange County, Florida, we take the coronavirus seriously.”

We asked Governor DeSantis’ office for comment.

“Mayor Demings acknowledged at his presser (press conference) that the county doesn’t have the authority under state law to enforce COVID mandates with fines or penalties. In practice, it appears that he is making a recommendation and asking for voluntary compliance, which is not the same thing as a mandate. It’s not clear that the other counties will attempt to fine or otherwise penalize people who violate local masking guidance, but recommendations don’t run afoul of state law,” said Governor DeSantis’ Press Secretary.

Last week during a press conference Governor DeSantis’s suggested that the state legislature could do a special session to ensure a normal, mask-optional school year.

Governor DeSantis said on July 22 that he has spoken to House Speaker Chris Sprowls, and they agreed if they need to call a special session “to do something from the legislative perspective” to ensure that masks remain optional in schools,

Sprowls is “all in to be able to do it”, said DeSantis.

“Governor DeSantis’ position is that parents should be able to decide what’s best for their own children,” said Governor DeSantis’ Press Secretary. “Many kids, especially those with special needs like hearing loss, autism, and sensory issues, struggle to learn and engage in a classroom setting with masks. Experts have raised concerns about the impact of masks on mental and emotional health, as well as socialization, speech, and language learning. It is also a concern that masks worn by children for 8 hours a day, taken off and put back on, can harbor potentially harmful bacteria.”

The Governor’s office said that fortunately, research indicates that COVID is not a serious risk to healthy children, which is why schools in most countries were among the first institutions to reopen.

“Governor DeSantis has always followed the science and made data-driven decisions, and schools have been open in Florida since last year — to the enormous benefit of Florida’s children — and have not been a significant source of COVID spread, even in communities where schools did not mandate masks. At the end of the day, the Governor trusts parents to weigh the risks and benefits and make the best choices for their own kids,” said the Governor’s office.

Florida state law supersedes local mandates, making them unenforceable and more of a recommendation or suggestion than an enforceable offense.

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