In a press conference Friday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the state is moving into what it initially called “phase 3,” which allows restaurants and bars to operate at full capacity. The executive order took effect immediately, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
It also prohibits local governments from closing businesses or collecting fines related to pandemic mandates. Namely, mask requirements.
DeSantis said, for restaurants, “there will not be limitations from the state of Florida.”
The order removes all state-level restrictions. Bars and restaurants were capped at 75 percent in phase 3 of DeSantis’ original reopening plan.
Local governments now won’t be able to prevent restaurants from operating at below 50 percent indoor capacity, justification or not. Previously, local officials could impose harsher restrictions than state orders, as South Florida did when it kept restaurants and bars shuttered after Florida allowed them to reopen. Additionally, cities and counties won’t be able to impose restrictions without an economic and health justification.
Another element says local governments can limit and regulate businesses, but won’t be able to close them because of COVID concerns.
And cities and counties, as noted, can’t collect outstanding fines issued as part of the pandemic response. They’re not compelled to refund anybody, however, who has paid already.
Florida paused its first round of reopening in July when cases spiked. But Friday’s order fully reopens its economy as the vast majority of remaining restrictions, including guys and retail spaces, lift.
DeSantis said in the press conference, “We’re not closing anything going forward.”
Florida has reported about 2,700 new coronavirus cases in the past seven days. Nearly 700,000 people have contracted the virus in Florida, and the death toll is more than 14,00, per the state’s health department.