Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order Friday allowing restaurants and bars to immediately begin operating at 100% capacity.
The move means the state is transitioning into Phase 3 of reopening. The order treats restaurants and bars differently in terms of what local municipalities can do to restrict operations.
“There will not be limitations, from the state of Florida,” he said.
DeSantis said he fully expects the state to host a “full Super Bowl” in February. The Super Bowl is scheduled to be held in Tampa Bay on February 7, 2021, according to the event’s website.
“We expect to do a full Super Bowl and we’re going to show that we’re going to be able to do that,” he said.
DeSantis’ order says no Covid-19 emergency ordinance can prevent a person from working or from operating a business. Local governments are unable to limit restaurants to less than 50% capacity under DeSantis’ new order, even with local government Covid-19 emergency orders.
If a local government Covid-19 emergency order limiting restaurant to less than 100% of its indoor capacity but above 50%, the government must explain why the limitation is necessary for public health and quantify the economic impact of the limits.
“If a local (government) restricts between 50 and 100, they’ve got to provide the justification and they’ve got to identify what the costs are involved with doing that are,” DeSantis said.
Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said he was disappointed he did not know about DeSantis’ executive order until the press conference Friday.
“As we deal with this pandemic, everything happens at a local level, this is where the rubber meets the road. And in order for us to be effective at dealing with the virus, we have to have good communications across the state,” Demings said, adding that his office received calls from “numerous businesses” seeking clarity following the governor’s statements.
“It really isn’t a good look for government, when we are not all on the same sheet of music and so I just hope that the government does better with that,” Demings said.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez says he intends to keep some restrictions in place. He said Miami-Dade County restaurants regardless of size will be able to operate at only 50% capacity.
DeSantis, in “an act of executive grace,” also suspended “all outstanding fines and penalties that have been applied against individuals” associated with pandemic-related mandates, like mask requirements.
“I think we need to get away from trying to penalize people for social distancing,” DeSantis said. “All these fines we’re going to hold in abeyance and hope that we can move forward in a way that’s more collaborative.”
US passes 7 million cases
The loosening restrictions come as the US reached another grim milestone on Friday, surpassing 7 million confirmed cases of Covid-19, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
It was January 22 when the first case of Covid-19 was recorded by Johns Hopkins. Now, eight months and more than 203,000 deaths later, the US has 7.02 million cases.
Nearly 700,000 of them have occurred in Florida, where 13,915 people have died. Florida has more cases than every other state except Texas and California.