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County Commission renews mask mandate for another week, Governor’s Press Secretary says mandate is “invalid”

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

Updated 2:50 p.m.

Today the Alachua County Commission renewed the universal indoor mask mandate for another 7 days, with minor changes, including making masks optional for children under 6.

In response, Governor DeSantis’ Press Secretary Christina Pushaw posted on Twitter that the emergency order is “already invalid, and the forced-masking cannot be enforced. No one will be fined or face penalties for declining to wear masks.”

Pushaw said she sent the following statement to media in Alachua County, although there was no response to our request for a statement: “Under Florida Statutes Section 252 and Governor DeSantis’ Executive Order 21-101, Alachua County does not have the legal authority to declare such local emergency and it is invalid as a matter of law. On May 3, 2021 Governor DeSantis signed into law SB 2006, which provides that any emergency order issued by a political subdivision may be invalidated by the Governor, at any time, if the Governor determines that such order unnecessarily restricts individual rights or liberties pursuant to section 252.38, Florida Statutes (2021). Accordingly, Governor DeSantis issued EO 21-101 which invalidated any emergency order issued by a political subdivision due to the COVID-19 emergency. And even in the absence of such order, Alachua County is not able to issue on its own a local state of emergency for a pandemic.”

Pushaw continued on Twitter: “Oh, and to be very clear, businesses that do not enforce #Alachua mask mandates will not be penalized either. The local order IS NOT VALID under the law.”

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Pushaw said all fines would be pardoned by Governor DeSantis, as he previously did in June.

Pushaw also indicated that the Governor’s office would be interested in media stories about harassment from codes enforcement: “As for harassment from codes enforcement, I am not in the loop on the situation, please send more details to our office if you’re reporting on it!”

However, EO 21-101 says this: “Only the COVID-19 emergency orders, as defined in SB 2006, enacted prior to July 1, 2021, are hereby invalidated.”

Pushaw then said, “Alachua County (and any other county) do not have the authority under Florida law to issue a state of emergency for a pandemic. Anyway, any fines the locals might be threatening for forced-masking violations, won’t be enforced. Businesses should be made aware of that.”

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