OCALA, Fla. – The mayor of Ocala held a news conference Friday to “speak from the heart” about the city’s position on enforcing the state’s rules concerning the coronavirus.
Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn said that he will not be following Gov. Ron DeSantis’ phase one orders during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I have instructed the chief of police not to enforce gov order,” the mayor said, claiming that it violates certain rights.
The mayor said that authorities will not be arresting anyone for gathering.
“If there are more than 10 people in a group, we’re not going to stop them,” Guinn said. “Let Marion County be an example of how we can bring the economy back in Florida.”
According to the mayor, phase one violates the community’s rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of religion, as well as those granted by the 14th amendment’s equal protection clause.
“We are not going to go around the city and county occupancy or capacity,” Guinn said. “We’re not going to shut down any churches, we’re not going to do that.”
While Ocala police won’t enforce the rules, state authorities with agencies like the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, OSHA and other state-run entities can enforce the rules.
According to the mayor, Ocala will not report orders being broken to DBPR, however, if DBPR steps in, their authority supersedes the mayor’s orders.
Marion County has 202 positive coronavirus cases as of Friday morning with 29 total hospitalizations since the outbreak began.
Under the governor’s phase one plan, certain businesses were able to open on Monday with limited capacity. On Friday, he added salons and barber shops to that list.
In response to the Guinn’s statements, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation sent this statement to News 6:
“Today, more Florida businesses – including barbershops and cosmetology salons – entered the reopening phase with the Governor’s announcement that these businesses may open Monday, May 11, with enhanced safety protocols. These businesses are important partners in Florida’s safe, smart, step-by-step reopening plan, and the Department is focused on providing these entities with information and guidance that will support their reopening efforts. Consistent with the agency’s ordinary operations, field personnel are conducting inspections of licensed premises and remain available and prepared to address matters of compliance as Florida continues forward on the path to recovery.”