Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Friday that Florida, hard hit by coronavirus pandemic this summer, was moving into Phase 3 of reopening, lifting all restrictions on restaurants and businesses.
DeSantis, a Republican, said restaurants, hotels and bars across the state can immediately reopen at full capacity. A staunch supporter of President Donald Trump, DeSantis has been widely criticized in the past for reopening Florida early in the pandemic — a move that came after the governor met with the president."
The order would also prohibit local governments from restricting business operations unless they can justify the economic cost of such actions.
“There will not be limitations,” DeSantis said at a press conference in St. Petersburg. “They can operate at a minimum of 50 percent regardless of local rule and then, if a local restricts between 50 and 100 [percent], they’ve got to provide the justification and they’ve got to identify what the costs involved with doing that are.”
Bars are able to decide how to handle capacity at their establishments. Bars were allowed to reopen at 50 percent capacity on Sep. 10.
“If you want to go beyond the 50, you can authorize and do it,” DeSantis said. “We’re not telling you you have to, but we’re not going to stand in the way of that, so that’ll be a local decision if they want to try to do more capacity in some of the bars and pubs.”
Gyms, hair salons and amusement parks were not addressed during the governor’s announcement on Friday, but most gyms and businesses have already been operating at full capacity.
The Sunshine State suffered devastating losses this past summer after it reopened in May just as the coronavirus was starting to crest. Covid-19 infections clustered in South Florida, where municipal officials reinstated restrictions on bars and eateries in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The uptick in cases during the months of July and August prompted the governor to close bars and restrict restaurants to take out only, but he has since slowly reopened the state for business even as the virus continues to decimate the U.S.
On Friday, Florida reported 2,541 new Covid-19 infections, bringing the state total to nearly 700,000 total confirmed cases. 177 deaths were recorded on Friday, bringing the cumulative state total to 13,914.
The state currently ranks third in most confirmed cases and fifth in deaths in the country since the pandemic began.