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(Reuters) - Florida's Governor on Thursday said he would grant pardons to any residents of his state facing penalties for violating local COVID-19 curbs, saying the rules should have been recommendations rather than mandates.
Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has opposed local COVID-19 health restrictions at nearly every turn and has led the charge nationally in reopening his state, to criticism from health experts.
He told Fox News he would sign a reprieve to spare Florida gym owners Mike and Jillian Carnevale from criminal penalties they were facing for not requiring patrons to wear masks at their business.
"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.
"These things with health should be advisory, they should not be punitive."
DeSantis, like some other Republican governors, has criticized what he termed the "government overreach" of some public health ordinances enacted by cities and counties, like mask mandates, and has pushed for voluntary measures that favor personal freedom.
He lifted all capacity restrictions on restaurants and bars in September and this month declared by executive order that all local emergency orders pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic were suspended.
(Reporting by Gabriella Borter; editing by John Stonestreet)