Florida Governor Ron DeSantis says that he will pardon residents who were punished for breaking COVID-19 mandates.
The pardons will extend to “any Floridian that may have outstanding infractions for things like masks and social distancing," DeSantis said Wednesday during a Fox News appearance.
“I’m going to sign a reprieve under my constitutional authority, so that will delay the case for 60 days against both of them,” DeSantis said, referring to former Broward County gym owners Mike and Jillian Carnevale, who were arrested for violating the mask mandate. “And then when our clemency board meets in the coming weeks, we’ll issue pardons not only for Mike and Jillian but for any Floridian that may have outstanding infractions for things like masks and social distancing," he continued.
DeSantis explained he believes locally imposed mandates forcing mask-wearing in public is a "total overreach," and he opposes punishing citizens for violating them.
“These things with health should be advisory, they should not be punitive,” the governor explained.
DeSantis reiterated his plan to issue the pardons during a Thursday press briefing. His announcement comes after his March executive order waiving fines on establishments and individuals who violated local COVID-19 mandates.
“Floridians should not be penalized for rejecting the overreach of local authorities through unnecessary mask mandates,” DeSantis tweeted on Thursday.
Critics of Desantis' hands-off approach with handling the coronavirus say that he may have contributed to the spread of the virus in the state.
“Perhaps it can even be debated that the governor’s inaction to enforce health and safety guidelines likely contributed to the spread of the virus in our state," Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said.
At the beginning of May, DeSantis decided to lift the remaining emergency COVID-19 mandates in his state. He also signed legislation that will take effect July 1, allowing him as governor to overturn remaining local restrictions if they infringe upon individual rights.
“What I’m going to do is sign the bill; it’s effective July 1,” DeSantis said. “I will also sign an executive order pursuant to that bill invalidating all remaining local emergency COVID orders effective on July 1. But then to bridge the gap between then and now, I am 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.”