Ron DeSantis is the first governor to pledge a blanket pardon for violations of COVID-19 restrictions. He won’t be the last. The Florida Republican joined Fox News host Laura Ingraham last night along with two Floridians facing misdemeanor charges and a few months in jail for not enforcing mask mandates at their gym. DeSantis, who had lifted the statewide restrictions, called local enforcement and prosecution “total overreach,” and pledged to push through the broad clemency order that would yank the issue away from local jurisdictions altogether:
RON DESANTIS: It’s a total overreach, Laura. This is exactly what we ordered against last summer many, many months ago, and so I was actually just recently briefed on this case, and we looked at it and so I’m glad you have Mike and Jillian on, and I’m also glad to be on to be able to say that effective tomorrow morning, I’m going to sign a reprieve under my constitutional authority. So that will delay the case for 60 days against both of them, and then when our clemency board meets in the coming weeks, we’ll issue pardons not only for Mike and Jillian, but for any Floridian that may have outstanding infractions for things like masks and social distancing.
The fact is it’s not even right to be wearing masks when you’re exercising. The World Health Organization advises against it. It’s not healthy for people to be doing that in the first place, so it was a bad restriction, but these things with health should be advisory, they should not be punitive, and so we are happy to use our constitutional authority. I think they’ve been treated poorly and fortunately, they got a governor that cares.
One of the arrests took place after the two owners set up their exercise equipment outdoors in an attempt to meet the county halfway:
Carnevale, the owner of Fitness 1440 in Plantation, was arrested three times over the summer and appeared before a judge in March over several charges of failing to comply with an emergency order.
“I believe I’m being targeted because I stood up to Broward County,” Carnevale said.
Carnevale was arrested in late August after setting up equipment in the parking lot of his gym and not asking members to wear masks.
“They’re looking to put us in jail for this and we’re not backing down,” he said. “We have an attorney that’s going to fight all the way to the end, I’m going to fight all the way to the end.”
The Carnevales can thank the CDC and its ridiculous risk assessment on outdoor transmission for that arrest. As DeSantis notes, WHO advises against mask wearing while exercising for the obvious reason of oxygen deficiency. If the exercise equipment is outdoors and reasonably spaced, the mask is probably a greater health/wellness risk than COVID-19 transmission.
Assuming the clemency board plays along, that will effectively put an end to local Karening. That impulse will continue for far longer than pandemic risks, which gives other governors the same opportunity for Deus ex machina heroics, albeit probably not including a prime-time surprise rescue as DeSantis gets out of it here. In fact, governors in many states might be forced to use clemency powers to prevent local jurisdictions from imposing their own enforcement and prosecutions, but the political benefit of rescuing people from Karening will be so obvious that governors might use their pardon power even when not necessary.