Nervous Nellie’s…The Governor Has Your Back


(By Ed Ryan) As Fort Myers Beach Town Attorney John Herin advises the Town Council that their mask mandate and social distancing ordinance is enforceable, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis continues to pull the rug out from under that advice.

Herin has told the council that fines levied on residents and businesses were enforceable after the Governor’s September 25th Executive Order. That original order wiped away all fines levied before September 25th.

On Wednesday the Governor updated his Executive Order which now reads that any COVID related fines between March 1, 2020 and March 10, 2021 are rescinded. That applies to any business or resident of the state. And as the vaccine rolls out and other states begin to lift restrictions and mask mandates there’s no reason to believe the Governor will not continue to extend his order.

DeSantis said “Many of these restrictions I think have shown to be ineffective and I think they’ve unfairly penalized people.

Like the state of Florida, Lee County has never implemented a mask mandate or social distancing ordinance, choosing education over trying to strong-arm residents by law.

Fort Myers Beach Mayor Ray Murphy and Town Manager Roger Hernstadt have attempted to close the beach, which fell flat when Lee County kept its portion of the beach open. And, with support from Vice Mayor Rexann Hosafros and Council Member Bill Veach, a mask mandate and social distancing ordinance remains in place. It was even updated February 17. That ordinance is used more as a tool of intimidation. It’s never actually been enforced. Dan Allers and Jim Atterholt have consistently voted against the mandates.

The town mainly targets local businesses, restaurants specifically, requiring employees to wear masks or face fines. Code Enforcement has no real authority to write tickets to residents and visitors who can simply refuse to offer up their ID and walk away. Lee County Sheriff’s deputies are not going to waste time harassing people about a mask or measure whether they are 6 feet apart, especially during season and spring break.

It was just this week that the town of Fort Myers Beach targeted Nervous Nellie’s for a planned St. Patrick’s Day party. Code Enforcement threatened the business with a $5,000 fine and told the owners they would be back several times to make sure the business was not violating the mask mandate and social distancing ordinance on the 17th. As of now the party is still on.
When Florida reopened completely back in September, part of the Governor’s first Executive Order barred local governments from adopting and enforcing restrictions they saw fit. Local governments need to show the state proof why they are restricting businesses from operating at 100%.


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