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Weird Science

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Ron DeSantis has invalidated all local COVID mitigation measures, because “trusting the science” means trusting the efficacy of the vaccines. The obvious problem is that Florida’s vaccination rates are poor, and DeSantis is forbidding businesses and schools from requiring proof of vaccination:

Declaring Florida’s COVID-19 emergency over, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed an executive order invalidating all remaining local emergency COVID orders and signed a bill into law that bars businesses, schools and government entities across Florida from asking anyone to provide proof of a COVID-19 vaccination.

“I think it’s the evidence-based thing to do,’’ DeSantis said at a St. Petersburg restaurant where he signed the bill with House Speaker Chris Sprowls and Senate President Wilton Simpson at his side. “I think folks that are saying that they need to be policing people at this point, if you’re saying that, you really are saying you don’t believe in the vaccines, you don’t believe in the data, you don’t believe in the science. … We are no longer in the state of emergency.”

The provision regulating so-called “vaccine passports” is tucked into SB 2006, a bill intended to update the state’s emergency powers in the face of a future public health emergency. Thenew law is effective July 1, but DeSantis also on Monday said he would sign an executive order invalidating all remaining local emergency COVID orders that are still in place after July 1 and suspend immediately any orders related to COVID-19 now.

The measure would make it more difficult for local governments to respond to public emergencies by requiring any future emergency orders to be narrowly tailored and extended only in seven-day increments for a total of 42 days and gives the governor the authority to invalidate an emergency order. Currently, such orders can be extended indefinitely.

Under the new law, businesses, schools and governments may not require proof of vaccinations, and if they do, they can be fined up to $5,000 per incident. They may, however, institute screening protocols if it is “consistent with authoritative or controlling government-issued guidance to protect public health.”

Licensed healthcare providers are the only entities exempted from the vaccine documentation provision.

Private companies can continue to require people to wear masks, but governments cannot mandate it, under the law.

On Sunday, Florida registered 3,841 new COVID-19 cases, 31 deaths and 6.3 million fully vaccinated people, about 30% of the population. Florida ranks 38th in vaccine rates in the nation.

The governor defended his decision to suspend local emergency orders relating to masks and social distancing.

”If we have widespread vaccinations that are over 99% effective, what’s the evidence basis for somebody to wear a mask now?’’ he asked.

It would be too generous to call this “libertarianism” — after all, he is forbidding private businesses from taking critical measures to keep their employees and customers safe. It’s more like “authoritarian nihilism,” and you can’t own the libs without breaking some eggs. Anyway, the claims that Florida’s response has been no worse than California’s can be safely retired. And I’m grateful to live in a state not governed by the Party of Death.

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