Photo courtesy Orange County Government, FL/Facebook
A day after Gov. Ron DeSantis unilaterally canceled what he termed "unprecedented" COVID-19-related fines imposed by counties around Florida, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings came out swinging during a news briefing
Starting off his remarks with a surprisingly direct response, Demings took aim at DeSantis by name, with an actual "here we go" preface.
"I believe Governor DeSantis loves to create confusion," opened Demings.
And with that salvo fired, it was off to the races.
"There is nothing unprecedented about local governments trying to provide for and protect its residents during a pandemic," said Demings. "We have been decisive in taking action when the governor was slow to act. We received many calls from our residents demanding businesses and individuals be held accountable for failing to take precautions to stop the spread of a deadly virus which has infected 2 million people in our state, with 117,000 infected in Orange County alone and 1138 who died of the virus in our county."
Demings further posited that DeSantis' "inaction" in enforcing health and safety guidelines "likely contributed to the spread of the virus" in Florida. Demings went on to say that he is directing the county attorney to explore legal options to work around this order.
On Wednesday, DeSantis issued an executive order that overturned all fines imposed by local governments against businesses and individuals for flouting health and safety guidelines to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
DeSantis called those fines "unprecedented local government restrictions" and his executive order is, improbably, retroactive, going as far as to cancel fines all the way back to March 2020, as reported by WTFV
. This will not apply to coronavirus-related penalties levied by the state.
The executive order effectively takes away the regulatory teeth of Orange County's coronavirus strike teams, who have been issuing fines throughout the area since December, after Demings issued his own countywide executive order
mandating penalties. However, Demings says that the strike teams will continue their work.
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