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Local mayors growing frustrated over lack of ability to enforce mask mandates

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis still won't allow local governments to enforce their mask mandates.

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – South Florida’s mayors are certainly welcoming to tourists, but many visiting for the holidays, and even locals, are not wearing masks.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis still won’t allow local governments to enforce their mask mandates.

The governor’s Covid priorities are clear; protect Florida’s senior citizens.

Anyone younger, he’s not so worried.

On New Year’s Eve, visitors and locals on Las Olas and South Beach did not seem worried either, with most not wearing masks or practicing social distancing.

Thanks to the governor, local cities can’t do anything about it.

“We can give out citations and we can urge people and we can give out masks, and we’ve given out thousands, but we don’t have the ability to mandate it in any way that’s effective,” said Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber.

In September DeSantis signed an executive order suspending the right of local governments to collect fines for Covid violations.

“He continues to say that we don’t want the federal government to tell us what to do, states are better because it should be local controlled,” said Broward County Mayor Steve Geller. “But when we here in Broward are asking for local control, we’re not getting it.”

The governor is emphatic, saying local government cannot enforce its own Covid restrictions.

At the same, he says, state government can’t tell people how to behave, like mask wearing.

DeSantis takes a libertarian position, saying wearing a mask should be a personal choice.

“It’s not a libertarian idea, there’s not some principal at stake, other than the idea that we should protect others and ourselves and our loved ones,” Gelber said.

Gelber, along with Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez have been trying for months to talk with DeSantis and make their case for tough local Covid restrictions.

The governor isn’t taking their calls.


About the Author:

Michael Putney came to Local 10 in 1989 to become senior political reporter and host of "This Week In South Florida with Michael Putney." He is Local 10's senior political reporter.