On Friday, Sept. 25, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the transition to the third phase of reopening the state, effective immediately. This means all restaurants, bars, and businesses have no restrictions placed on maximum capacity by the state of Florida; in fact, if they want to continue operating at a reduced capacity, they must make their case to the state on an individual basis as to why they should not fully reopen.
“The ‘principled’ conservative response to crises such as this has typically been to devolve power to the local level,” Professor of Political Science Michael Gorup said. “At least on the national level, this has been the ideological justification for the weak response by the federal government. But phase 3 reopening does not follow this model: it is much more top down. The state government is requiring local governments to lift public health and safety measures, regardless of what local elected officials might judge to be the best course of action for their communities.”
This executive order is just another example of how politics have continued to play a part in Florida’s public health response, which has been demonstrated by Trump-backed DeSantis’ handling of the pandemic.
“The governor’s decision seems to be motivated more by his personal political ambitions than the safety of Floridians,” Gorup said. “He hasn’t shown much interest in the latter during this crisis and has instead mostly been preoccupied with pleasing the President and making a name for himself in national Republican Party politics.”
With New College’s first case of COVID-19 reported on Tuesday, Sept. 29, the timing of this move into Phase 3 presents increasingly dangerous circumstances for the health of both campus and the local community. Beyond the health concerns of increased capacities in restaurants and bars, cities such as Sarasota are struggling with the legality of mask mandates.
Within DeSantis’ executive order, there is a provision to remove any form of penalty for those who may violate local COVID-19 ordinances, such as a mask mandate. The move has stripped power from the City of Sarasota to enforce their mask mandate, boiling it down to nothing more than a recommendation: putting the local community—and New College—at risk.
Sofia Lombardi is also president of the New College Student Alliance.