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Broward Mayor Steve Geller wants to be able to enforce COVID-19 restrictions, especially as Spring Breakers crowd Broward’s bars and beaches.
Hoping to take back the power to enforce restrictions, he wrote to Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday. Geller asked DeSantis to reconsider his new order that dismissed fines issued against people and businesses for violating local COVID laws, including mask violations, over the last year. DeSantis issued the order Wednesday just as Spring Break started revving up on Fort Lauderdale beach.
“I am extremely concerned that this Order will severely impact our ability to enforce compliance of our County’s COVID19 Emergency Order as to businesses, such as requiring patrons to wear masks and social distance,” Geller wrote. “I find it particularly unfortunate that this is being done while we are in the middle of Spring Break, with College Students here from throughout the Country.”
Geller explained in the letter that the county already plans to phase out its COVID rules based on the percentage of people vaccinated and positivity percentages. He said he believes the governor’s order is six to eight weeks too soon.
“We’ve come this far, it would be a tragedy for Broward residents to be hospitalized or die because we lift or can’t enforce our restrictions a little prematurely,” he wrote.
DeSantis wiped away all COVID-19-related fines, saying such penalties were “out of control” and “heavy handed.” Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties pushed back Thursday, saying their efforts are necessary to help stop the spread of the virus, especially amid Spring Break.
“You have stated that the fines on business are out of control,” Geller wrote. “We’re not interested in collecting money; we want to protect our people.”
Geller cited DeSantis’ opposition to statewide mask mandates “because Florida has different areas with different needs.” He asked DeSantis give at least the populous South Florida area the ability to enforce its orders “and protect our residents and workers.”
“Early into the pandemic, you issued orders recognizing the different circumstances faced by our three counties,” Geller wrote. “Please do so again here.”