THE NEUTRAL ZONE
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that the state will enter Phase 3 of its reopening plan. The executive order he announced at a press conference today will remove all remaining restrictions on businesses and will prohibit local governments from closing businesses or collecting fines in connection with pandemic-related mandates. “Every business has a right to operate… you can’t just say no after six months and have people twisting in the wind,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis said he’s seen no signs of a “second wave” of infections, but added that hospitals have plenty of capacity if one emerges. He said he hopes Florida can host “a full Super Bowl” in Tampa in February.
Phase 3 directs vulnerable populations to resume public interactions with social distancing, allows employers to resume “unrestricted staffing of worksites” and businesses to operate at full capacity. If local governments want to reinstate capacity restrictions, officials must show economic and health justifications for doing so. Previously, local governments could go further than state-level restrictions.
DeSantis acknowledged that the approach in Southern Florida will likely be different, as those counties have been hit the hardest with COVID-19 infections. Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade have been reopening business at later dates than other counties in the state thus far.
Democrats expressed concern regarding the reopening timeline. State Sen. Audrey Gibson said, “No one is advocating for a full-scale lockdown in Florida. But we have been and continue to ask for common-sense prevention measures such as face masks, which are essential to preventing further spread.” State Sen. Linda Stewart called the move politically motivated and questioned whether the timing was right. On Friday, Florida’s Health Department reported 2,851 new COVID-19 cases for state residents and 162 new deaths.
Ron DeSantis Lifts Statewide COVID Restrictions in Bid to Completely Open Florida Economy – National Review – 9/25/2020
DeSantis cited reduced coronavirus hospitalizations as well as continued strain on the economy in making his decision. The governor said businesses including restaurants, bars, and nightclubs will be able to open at full capacity if they choose, however social-distancing protocols are still recommended.
COVID-Skeptical Florida Guv Outdoes Himself, Lifts All Restrictions on Restaurants and Bars – The Daily Beast – 9/25/2020
DeSantis, a Trump acolyte whose lax response to the pandemic has enraged many in his state and across the country, said he’d sign an order Friday to guarantee restaurants operate at a minimum 50 percent capacity “regardless of local rule.” Any city or county that wants to restrict capacity to between 50 and 100 percent will have to provide justification and outline the cost of it, he said.
Florida’s DeSantis lets businesses fully reopen a day after reporting the most coronavirus deaths in the U.S. – The Week – 9/25/2020
Florida’s coronavirus recovery isn’t going so well. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) apparently didn’t notice. DeSantis announced Friday the whole state would move to the third and final phase of its reopening plan. That means businesses, including bars and restaurants, will be allowed to operate at full capacity even as the state continues to see thousands of new COVID-19 cases each day.
Gov. Ron DeSantis Moves Florida Into Phase 3, Restaurants Can Open At Full Capacity – Daily Caller – 9/25/2020
“For the restaurants there will be no limitations from the state of Florida,” DeSantis said at his press conference at The Birchwood, a St. Petersburg hotel. “This will be very, very important to the industry and it also will be recognition that they have worked as hard as anybody to create safe environments.” Under phase 3 restaurants no longer have a state-wide restriction on capacity, though DeSantis said he’s signing an order that will guarantee restaurants can operate at a minimum of 50 percent capacity regardless of local rules, according to WFTV 9.