Sabatini has filed similar lawsuits in Leon County and the city of DeLand, Fox 35 reported. However, the suit in Hillsborough County has attracted particular attention, since it makes business owners responsible to ensure customers wear masks and the county had its largest single-day surge in coronavirus cases this week.
Sabatini believes that mask mandates are unconstitutional and result in “bullying” and harassment by business employees and government officials, he said in a CNN interview Wednesday.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Hillsborough County Has Adopted a Strict Mask-Wearing Policy for All Indoor Businesses After Experiencing a 44.5-Percent Uptake in Cases in 1 Week
Wearing a mask, washing your hands, and maintaining physical distancing are a few ways help stop the spread of COVID-19 in our community.
— Hillsborough County (@HillsboroughFL) July 6, 2020
Hillsborough County has been under a state of emergency since March 12, according to the county website, and at the beginning of July experienced a one-week uptick in positive cases of 44.5 percent.
On June 22, the county’s Emergency Policy Group passed an executive order mandating that people wear masks in public. And on July 6, extended and adapted it to require all employees and customers at indoor businesses to wear the face coverings when not social distancing. Business owners are also required to make sure people follow the executive order inside their businesses.
Business customers who don’t follow the Emergency Policy Group’s executive order requiring face coverings to help slow the spread of COVID-19 may find themselves looking at a fine, while businesses that take actions to inform patrons will not.
— Hillsborough County (@HillsboroughFL) July 6, 2020
The executive order provides exceptions for children under 8, people observing social distancing, people with a health condition precluding then from wearing a mask and employees who don’t come into contact with other people.
Businesses and people who don’t comply could face a civil violation and a $150 fine, according to the executive order.
2. Sabatini’s Lawsuit Alleges Mask Mandates Violate People’s Rights Under the Florida Constitution
Sabatini, who is also an attorney, filed the Hillsborough lawsuit on behalf of local farmer Eric Gonyon on June 27.
Gonyon has a medical condition that makes it impossible for him to wear a mask, Sabatini’s lawsuit alleges, and he is also negatively affected by having to enforce the rule on his customers.
The order violates the Florida State Constitution as well, according to Sabatini.
“The executive order is a radical infringement of the reasonable and legitimate expectation of privacy that most Floridians expect to have over their own bodily and facial autonomy, in addition to their medical privacy,” he wrote. “Plaintiff’s medical privacy is and will continue to be infringed by the executive order, which requires him to both wear a mask and investigate and require any visitor to his business to also wear [a] mask.”
Sabatini also claims that the order is arbitrary and unrelated to the stated purpose of “flattening the curve” of new hospitalizations, and violates Floridians’ due process rights. He is seeking a temporary injunction halting the executive order and a declaratory judgment deeming it unconstitutional.
Hillsborough County has not yet filed its response, according to court records.
3. Sabatini Also Filed a Lawsuit in Leon County — It Was Rejected by a Judge Last Week
JUST FILED a lawsuit on behalf of @EvanPower against @LeonCounty Commission—their vague Emergency Order 20-15 would result in arbitrary enforcement with abusive results against Floridians in the middle of a recession.
No county should be able to fine $250 for not wearing a mask. pic.twitter.com/5oxlTH5YBt
— Rep. Anthony Sabatini (@AnthonySabatini) June 25, 2020
Sabatini also sought to strike down Leon County’s mask mandate, filing a lawsuit the day it went into effect on June 25. He then accused people pushing the mandates of having a “far left” agenda that “puts out small businesses and economy at risk,” the Tallahassee Democrat reported.
Leon County’s order included a $50 fine for the first violation, $125 for the second and $250 for the third, the outlet reported.
Sabatini filed his lawsuit in Leon County on behalf of local Republican politico Evan Power, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
On July 10, however, Judge John Cooper said that masks had a valid purpose in slowing the spread of coronavirus and their efficacy is backed up by science, the outlet reported. Cooper found that it violated no constitutional rights. He upheld the ordinance.
According to WMFE, Sabatini told Judge Cooper that if the mandate were upheld, perhaps local authorities should also regulate movement to “prevent the horrible onset of hernias.”
“Well, the good news, Mr. Sabatini, at least as far as I last checked, hernias aren’t contagious,” Cooper responded.
4. Sabatini Said on CNN This Week, That He ‘Absolutely’ Doesn’t Wear a Mask When He Goes to the Grocery Store & That Mask Mandates Are Causing More ‘Havoc’ & ‘Harm’ to People’s Lives
On Wednesday, CNN’s Brianna Keillar had Sabatini on for a combative interview, in which she told him several times his information was incorrect and she pressed him on whether he personally wears a mask when he goes to the grocery store.
Sabatini said that Hillsborough’s executive order violates the Florida constitution’s “robust privacy clause” — “This is something government’s never done before,” he said.
When Keillar pointed out that half of the United States’ metro areas that have been hardest hit by coronavirus are in Florida, Sanatini countered with, “Most of my state is doing just fine … I think the governor’s response has been on point.”
He urged the media to focus on hospitalizations and deaths rather than positive case numbers in support of his claim that the state is doing well. The state added 15,000 cases just on Sunday and 133 people died just on Tuesday due to the virus, the Tampa Bay Times reported. Hillsborough County had 19 deaths in one day last week.
When Kiellar asked Sabatini if he personally wears a mask at the grocery store, he said, “I absolutely don’t,” adding that he is careful to socially distance. “If you’re doing that, there’s no reason to have a mask on top of that,” he said.
According to Sabatini, with Florida’s economy starting to reopen, it was inevitable that case numbers would rise, but that with the state’s population of 21.5 million people, the number of hospitalizations and deaths are not significant enough to keep the state from opening up “100 percent.”
5. Medical Experts Are Now Referring to Florida As the ‘Epicenter’ of the Pandemic
The state of Florida reported 10,181 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, bringing the state total to 300,000, local ABC affiliate WESH 2 reported.
NBC News projected that the state would hit 5,000 fatalities before the virus runs its course.
“Miami is now the epicenter of the pandemic. What we were seeing in Wuhan five or six months ago, now we are there,” said Lilian Abbo, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Miami, earlier this week.
— Daniel Uhlfelder (@DWUhlfelderLaw) July 15, 2020
On Tuesday, infectious disease expert Dr. Lilian Abbo declared that Miami had now replaced Wuhan, China, as the epicenter of the pandemic. She pleaded with the public for cooperation and to exercise safety measures, NPR reported.
Jackson Health System CEO Carlos Migoya also warned Tuesday that Miami-Dade County might not see its peak number of cases for weeks — “and that is a very tough three weeks.” The current numbers don’t bode well for opening schools in the area, he said, according to NPR.