Miami Herald

Still too early for DeSantis’ victory lap

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Calling his approach “evidence based” and pro-science, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a new law and an executive order Monday that will neuter efforts by cities and counties to contain the spread of the coronaviru­s.

In a premature declaratio­n of victory against the pandemic, DeSantis tied the hands of Miami Beach as it prepares to host crowds over Memorial Day weekend and of Miami-Dade County as it continues to deal with some of the highest rates of infection in the state and persistent­ly low vaccinatio­n among Black residents.

DeSantis justified his move based on Florida’s progress on vaccinatio­ns. As of Monday, 42 percent of Floridians had received at least one shot of a vaccine and 30 percent had had both, according to the New York Times vaccine tracker. That’s behind the national average of 44 percent Americans who’ve had at least one dose and far from what we need to reach herd immunity (that’s if we ever do, given the large number of Americans still hesitant about the vaccine).

Certainly, we have made great progress vaccinatin­g people and curbing infections, but DeSantis’ news conference in St. Petersburg didn’t seem to be happening in a state that registered more than 3,000 new cases and 41 deaths on Monday.

DeSantis’ executive order nullifies emergency orders put in place by local government­s, such as mask mandates. He also signed into law Senate Bill 2006, which bans businesses from requiring proof of vaccinatio­n, limits local emergency powers and gives the governor the ability to invalidate a local emergency order.

These efforts are an insult to anyone working to safely return to normal, whether they be a government or a cruise line trying to assure customers its ships are safe. Despite DeSantis’ assertion that he’s following science, this goes against the majority of experts who warn that wearing masks still is necessary in many situations even as people get vaccinated.

This is yet another power grab from a governor and Legislatur­e imposing their ideologica­l approach to the virus. They seem more concerned with allowing anti-maskers and virus deniers to have their “personal freedom” than protecting the health of the majority of Floridians. If only they spent as much effort asking people to mask up instead of making it easier for them not to.

This is ironic coming from Republican­s who value local control, decentrali­zation and private enterprise.

Perhaps the biggest irony is

that the executive order DeSantis announced Monday won’t really change much because he has been chipping away at local restrictio­ns for months, leaving counties and cities little leeway to fight the coronaviru­s.

Still, local government­s had been working within the confinemen­ts of what the state allows. Now, thanks to the governor’s latest move, Miami Beach won’t be able to shut down businesses that don’t enforce a mask mandate for their customers and employees. With popular clubs reopening and out-of-state crowds expected for Memorial Day, all we have left is the hope that businesses choose to do the right thing.

Worse than taking from communitie­s the power to address the pandemic according to their unique situation — South Florida’s outbreak was much worse than that in rural parts of the state, for example — is the message DeSantis sent with his announceme­nt.

“It sends a message to everybody, you don’t have to worry anymore,” Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber told the Editorial Board.

As tempting as its is to assume the pandemic is over, we’re not there yet and — given the governor’s latest order — likely won’t be soon.

 ?? JOE RAEDLE Getty Images ?? New law lets Gov. DeSantis override local efforts to impose emergency orders to fight COVID.
JOE RAEDLE Getty Images New law lets Gov. DeSantis override local efforts to impose emergency orders to fight COVID.

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