ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order Wednesday that bans any county or municipality from fining people or businesses due to coronavirus safety violations.
The order covers the past year from March 1, 2020 to now. Previously, under another executive order DeSantis banned COVID-19 related fines and restrictions, however, through a loop hole local governments like Orange County have imposed fines against businesses that flout COVID-19 safety precautions.
“I hereby remit any fines imposed between March 1, 2020, and March 10, 2021, by any political subdivision of Florida related to local government COVID-19 restrictions,” DeSantis’ new executive order reads.
It’s unclear how this will impact those businesses that have been fined under Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings’ county executive order issued in December 2020.
Demings said the order was necessary after Orange County strike teams found more than a dozen bars not complying with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 guidelines.
Since Demings authorized strike teams to fine repeat offenders, 131 businesses have received either a warning or a citation of no more than $500 as of early February. Most recently, during Super Bowl weekend, strike teams found no issues.
Eddy Sanchez, owner of In and Out 2 Barbershop and Salon, said he was fined $300 after a customer wasn’t wearing a mask when the Orange County strike team visited his business in December.
“I was happy (with the governor’s order) because I didn’t consider (the fine) to be fair,” said Sanchez, who added that he supports mask-wearing. “We’re going to continue wearing masks. I believe in wearing a mask. It saves lives.”
Sanchez said he didn’t think he should be punished because someone else broke the rules.
“We asked the customer right in front of the officer to wear his mask,” Sanchez said. “The customer decided to ignore it, and I got fined.”
“I will ask my customer, for our safety, to wear a mask. If they refuse, I’m not going to force it on them. I will continue wearing my mask. My staff will do the same. We will always continue to wear the masks until, hopefully, this virus goes away one day.”