In a surprising move, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Friday signed an executive order lifting all coronavirus restrictions on bars and restaurants in the state effective immediately.
He also added that he will prohibit local governments from closing businesses or imposing any restrictions of their own, noting that if a local government wants to put capacity restrictions between 50 percent and 100 percent, officials will need to show the economic and health justifications for doing so. Previously, local governments could go further than state-level restriction. Some counties, like Miami-Dade, have maintained social distancing and safety protocols even after the state allowed them to reopen.
“There will not be limitations from the state of Florida,” DeSantis said during a press conference Friday. “I think this will be very, very important to the industry. Some of the local [governments] can do reasonable regulations, but you can’t say no after six months and just have people twisting in the wind.”
The move means that, among other things, music venues can now resume operating at full capacity in Florida. While Florida initially avoided the brunt of the coronavirus’ onslaught in the spring with few restrictions in place, the state became a hotspot for the pandemic in the summer months, prompting DeSantis to close bars and restaurants and implement other restrictions that he had railed against in the early months of the outbreak.
Although the thought of live music getting back to normal is something we are all eagerly anticipating, the hardline decision from DeSantis has unsurprisingly troubled some local officials.
In an interview with CNN, Miami mayor Francis Suarez expressed concern over the unilateral decision by the governor and encouraged citizens to continue taking precautions against the spread of the virus.
“Prior to that decision,” Suarez explained, “The governor had basically allowed the city of Miami to sort of go at its own pace. We’ve seen other clashes across the country between other governors and mayors, and it was something I actually praised him for, for giving us to do that. [Reopening without restrictions] is a concern, because we have been doing things very methodically. We have implemented a mask in public rule, it was working. … The mask in public rule was something we were heavily enforcing, and that was, I believe, a big reason why the numbers were going down so dramatically.”
When asked about the potential impact on not being allowed to enforce mask-wearing mandates under the new executive order, Suarez explained, “I think it’s going to have a huge impact. I just don’t know how many people are actually going to do it now.”
“We’ll see in the next couple of weeks whether [DeSantis is] right about his perspective. But if he’s wrong about his perspective … it’s going to be very, very, very difficult for him and it’s going to be a very difficult time, because it’s in the middle of flu season,” Suarez said.
As Florida moves into Phase 3 of its reopening guidelines, we want to remind everyone that wearing a mask and staying socially distant are still the best measures to prevent the spread of the virus. I would also like to thank @FWhitfield and @CNN for having us on their show. pic.twitter.com/FqTVZ5acjl
— Mayor Francis Suarez (@FrancisSuarez) September 26, 2020
Ron DeSantis on Friday did acknowledge that the pandemic is still a concern, but said the state is prepared for a potential surge and that the prospect should not force businesses to close again. Noted DeSantis, “We’re prepared if we see an increase. We’re not closing anything moving forward. We have the tools in place.”
[H/T The Hill]