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WEST PALM BEACH (CBSMiami) — Palm Beach County’s COVID Compliance Team is investigating an event Governor Ron DeSantis held at a West Palm Beach hotel Friday morning for violating the county’s masking and social distancing rules.

The governor spoke indoors in front of a mostly maskless crowd about election reform bills he supports in the next legislative session.

READ MORE: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Announces Flags At Half Staff For Rush Limbaugh

A spokesperson for Palm Beach County sent our sister station CBS12 News the following statement:

“Approximately 15 minutes before the Governor’s 10:00 am press event this morning at the Airport Hilton, we were informed that a large audience (approximately 100-150) was in attendance and numerous individuals were not wearing facial coverings or masks. We immediately dispatched a CECT representative to the event. We have spoken to Hilton management and will be following up with them and event organizers in accordance with our normal compliance procedures.”

Under the Governor’s executive orders, an individual cannot be fined for refusing to wear a mask.

The only enforcement action Palm Beach County can take is fining the Hilton Hotel on Australian Avenue for violating the county mask mandate.

The governor’s office issued the following statement Friday afternoon:

READ MORE: South Florida Doctor Accused Of Attacking Hispanic Man, Hurling Racial Slur At Him

“Governor DeSantis’ executive order suspending the collection of fines and penalties associated with COVID-19 enforced upon individuals remains in place.”

DeSantis held the event to discuss election reforms, and said he wants to increase security around drop boxes, prevent so called “ballot harvesting” and make it illegal for someone to drop off another person’s mail in ballot.

While touting Florida’s efficiency and transparency in the 2020 election, DeSantis said he wants to prevent certain practices from happening in the sunshine state, like mailing out “mass unsolicited mail in ballots.”

Senator Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton spoke to CBS12 News about the controversy over the Governor’s event, and his proposals for election reform.

“It’s really unfortunate that no one is role modeling the proper behavior in that group,” Sen. Polsky said. “You have the governor of the state not looking out for his constituents.”

Polsky said she supports Palm Beach County taking action against the Hilton and event organizers for the ordinance violations.

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She also criticized the Governor’s election reforms, calling them a partisan effort that would suppress voter participation, especially among seniors who vote by mail in large numbers. She said the legislation contains “solutions in search of a problem.”

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Olympic gymnast Hernandez enjoys solid return at Winter Cup

The nerves were there. They were unavoidable, really. Yet rather than greet them with anxiety or fear as she did the last time she stood on the competition floor, Laurie Hernandez embraced them.

Yes, it’s been more than four years — a lifetime and then some in women’s gymnastics — since she walked off the podium at the 2016 Olympics with a star-making smile and a pair of medals around her neck. Her journey since leaving Brazil included dabbling in the trappings that came with newfound stardom, moving from New Jersey to Los Angeles and parting with a coach currently serving a 5-year suspension for abusive behavior.

Oh, and then there’s the dash of skepticism about whether her comeback was legit.

Yet all of it faded into the background on Saturday at the Winter Cup in Indianapolis. The electric smile — one she insists is no longer choreographed but sincere — returned. And while her performance, a fifth on balance beam and 11th on floor exercise after she watered down her final tumbling pass in the name of safety, provided evidence of just how long she’d been away, her return was a victory in itself.

“It was like coming back as a new person,” Hernandez said.

She was talking about herself. She might as well have been talking about her sport. The meet was the first major non-invitational event in more than 15 months for almost the entire field after the COVID-19 pandemic forced almost the entire 2020 competition calendar to be canceled and the Tokyo Olympics postponed until this summer.

Even in a largely empty arena filled with cardboard cutouts and the exclamations of the broadcast announcing team echoing in place of applause, it felt sort of normal.

“There’s like those little butterflies that come and go,” said Hernandez, now 20. “But what’s been happening a lot within the last year or so is that like, I’ll do a beam routine and then halfway through, I kind of settle into my own body and it just feels like I can relax and be grounded. And that’s kind of what happened today.”

She wasn’t the only one. Jordan Chiles — who contemplated leaving elite gymnastics to focus on her impending college career — posted the highest all-around score of 57.050. It was a performance that served as validation of her decision to make a run for the Olympic team, a path made even more difficult with athletes turning 16 this year — including Konnor McClain and Skye Blakely — now eligible to compete in Tokyo.

“I just went out there and did what I did and showed people what they needed to see,” Chiles said.

Blakely and McClain hardly looked intimidated by the stakes. Blakely’s rock-solid beam routine — including a beautiful layout at the end of a tumbling pass that looked like she was standing on the floor, not a 4-inch piece of wood 4-feet in the air — pushed her into a tie for first on the event. McClain was fourth on beam and third vault.

“They handled themselves really really well,” national team coordinator Tom Forster said. “And they looked seasoned.”

They will need to rely on that resolve if they want to be a part of the conversation this summer. Several of the most accomplished gymnasts in the U.S. program — Olympic champion Simone Biles and former world champion Morgan Hurd chief among them — skipped what Forster described as a “preseason” event, a way for athletes to knock off some of the rust.

Not everyone was rusty. Three-time world championship medalist Sunisa Lee put together a dazzling set on the uneven bars, her 15.050 the highest of the day on any event. Not bad considering Lee isn’t joking when she says she just “chucks skills” out there.

Leg injuries have limited her time on floor exercise and vault, though Forster said he’s confident Lee will be available to compete in the all-around later this spring.

Hernandez — who helped the “Final Five” win team gold in Rio and earned an individual silver on beam — is also on the path to make all four events competition-ready by the time things get serious in May. She admits she finds herself with a “new brain” and a new approach, one that is a testament to both her maturity and the way the gymnasts themselves are empowering each other in the wake of a series of scandals that have rocked USA Gymnastics since that triumphant moment in Brazil.

“Maybe when I was 16, I’d go to compete and I’d feel nervous and I’d be like, ‘I’m not nervous. I’m fine’ because I equated nerves with me not being prepared, which, you know, of course, I learned now, like, that’s not true at all,” she said. “You get nervous either way because you care, not because you’re not ready. So it’s all just a big mindset change.”

Upgrading the difficulty level of her routines will be a must if Hernandez wants to be a serious threat to be on the six-woman team that flies to Tokyo this summer. There’s a long way to go. Then again, she figures she’s already come a long way.

The relationship with former coach Maggie Haney — suspended for by USA Gymnastics last April for abusive practices — is gone. On Saturday, she and Riley McCusker — also a former Haney pupil — took a moment to drink in an environment they believe is far healthier than the one they once knew.

“I think both of us had a lot of adapting to do in our either come back or changes that we had to endure,” Hernandez said. “And we were just excited to be here and to see each other. And I think if anybody, of course, like Riley, Riley gets it. And so we’ve been able to connect in that way and, you know, in so many different levels. Coming back here, it’s just been a really big, I think, accomplishment. Just being here in general is a big accomplishment.”


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