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Florida governor pardons citizens facing fines for breaking Covid-19 restrictions

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Florida) has pardoned citizens in his state still facing fines and other penalties from violating Covid-19 orders issued by local governments.

In a Wednesday press conference, DeSantis called his pardons “necessary” for Florida to return to “normal” and many of the orders violated were “way, way overboard.”

Mike and Jillian Carnevale, former gym owners in the state, joined the governor for his press conference. The two had multiple run-ins with officials when they refused to force their customers to wear masks while they were working out. The couple had misdemeanor charges against them dropped in May, but DeSantis argued the business owners should have never been punished at all for exercising “common sense.”

“Just understand, if you’re in good shape, you’re going to handle COVID 99.99% of the time. And so, they are telling you to close people’s gyms, have them eat takeout, and watch Netflix all day. That’s not good for health,” DeSantis said. “So, one of the best things you can do for COVID is to be in good health.”

The total number of pardons for individuals and businesses is not yet known.

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DeSantis’ pardons follow the governor making waves for also banning vaccine passports in his state, ensuring citizens won’t be required to prove they are vaccinated against Covid-19 to travel or enter certain businesses. DeSantis also signed legislation last month effectively banning local governments from continuing pandemic-era restrictions and penalties. 

The governor’s public profile has risen as he’s become one of the fiercest Republican opponents of lockdown restrictions. DeSantis also became a popular target for Democrats. Nikki Fried, a Democratic candidate for governor, issued a statement following DeSantis’ pardon announcement and chalked it up to a “politically motivated stunt.” She was the only dissenting vote against the governor on the state’s Clemency Board. 

“I voted today to uphold our laws, while our so-called pro-law enforcement governor is actively encouraging people to break the law with politically motivated stunts like this,” she said.

DeSantis has argued, however, that those who broke pandemic-era restrictions are not “real criminals.”

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