Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, from the start, positioned himself as firmly against pandemic safety measures, going so far as to describe his state as “an oasis of freedom” even as the virus spread and Florida chalked up more than two million Covid-19 cases and 35,000 deaths. The Florida Republican, who is now clearly angling for a presidential run, told Fox News Thursday evening he’s now going one step further and will pardon anyone in his state that has been busted for disobeying local coronavirus restrictions, like mask-wearing or social distancing. In an interview with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham, DeSantis described such local legal efforts to combat the pandemic as “a total overreach” by government.
On Thursday, DeSantis issued an executive order granting a “categorical, statewide, 60-day reprieve for any individual or business that has been or could be” prosecuted for disobeying pandemic restrictions and that he would pardon those who had been prosecuted. DeSantis appeared in a perfectly choreographed Fox News segment shortly after recalcitrant local gym owners Mike and Jillian Carnevale, a couple who were arrested on three separate occasions over a two-week period last summer for violating county mask requirements at their gym. “I think they’ve been treated poorly,” DeSantis said following the Carnevales’ appearance. “Fortunately, they got a governor that cares.” “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,” DeSantis said.
Last September, DeSantis effectively neutered coronavirus ordinance enforcement by suspending local authorities ability to impose fines and penalties for breaking local orders. DeSantis has also issued executive orders allowing him to overrule local emergency orders, including mask mandates and school closures. Last week, the Florida governer signed a law suspending all coronavirus restrictions in the state starting July 1.
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