ST. PETERSBURG, FL — As the coronavirus pandemic continues, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday that Florida is ready for its Phase 3 of reopening. In that phase, restaurants are allowed to operate at full capacity and local governments may not order restaurants to close unless they can justify a closure for economic or health reasons.
“We’re not closing anything going forward,” DeSantis said during a news conference in St. Petersburg, and told reporters the state has plans in place if infections increase again, the Associated Press said.
Florida, especially counties in South Florida, has been a hot spot in the coronavirus pandemic. The number of confirmed cases of the virus in the state climbed to 695,887 as of Friday, up from 693,040 over the previous 24 hours.
The total number of deaths from the virus in Florida was just under 14,000 as of Friday, totaling 13,915 according to state health officials.
Wednesday was the state's 42nd day of daily positivity under 10 percent.
DeSantis closed bars and nightclubs, and restricted restaurants to take-out dining for months. Amusement parks in the Orlando area shut down, and hundreds of thousands of Floridians were unemployed, especially in the hotel, food service and cruise line sectors of the economy.
"We're also aware of the need for business certainty," DeSantis said. "There have been some local closures and other types of restrictions, so the order that I'm signing today will not allow closures of restaurants, and they can operate at a minimum of 50 percent regardless of local rules.”
While schools have reopened in some parts of the state, Miami school officials have delayed the reopening of classrooms until at least Oct. 14 in the nation's fourth-largest school system.
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity shared the Florida unemployment rate on Sept. 18 and said it was at 7.4 percent in August.
According to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Florida lost 1,178,100 jobs from February to April and has since gained back over half of the jobs lost (+631,600 jobs).
"I think what we've seen is we've been able to put more people back to work," DeSantis said. "All these indicators have gone down since July. The end of June and July were tough, not only for Florida but across the Sunbelt, which you've seen steady, steady progress. We need everyone to be able to go to work, we need people to be able to be in school."
One of the hardest hit industries in Florida was the leisure and hospitality industry, and it lost most of its jobs from February to April but experienced a positive gain from April to August with 278,500 (50.6 percent) jobs added.
During the news conference, DeSantis said he wants to start seeing more sports activities, and it's important to him that Tampa host the Super Bowl at full capacity as planned in February 2021.
According to the governor's website, Phase 3 reopening guidelines include:
Employees should resume unrestricted staffing of worksites and implement the final phasing in of employees returning to work. For vulnerable populations, teleworking can be considered.
Employers should take prudent and practical measures to ensure employees do not enter the premises if they believe they are infected with coronavirus or show symptoms of influenza-like illness.
Employees should resume nonessential travel and adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines regarding isolation following travel.
Local Government Meetings
These meetings should return to in-person quorum and public participation for local government bodies.
Bars, Pubs and Nightclubs
Bars, pubs, and nightclubs that derive more than 50 percent of sales from alcohol should operate at full capacity with limited social distancing protocols. Businesses should maintain adequate sanitation practices among employees and patrons during all hours of operation. Menus, if laminated, should be cleaned after each usage. Paper menus should be designed for single use and then be disposed of immediately after each use.
Restaurants and food service establishments may operate at full capacity with limited social distancing protocols. Businesses should maintain adequate sanitation practices amongemployees and patrons during all hours of operation. Menus, if laminated, should continueto be cleaned after each usage. Paper menus shall be designed for single use and then immediately disposed of.
Gym and Fitness Centers:
Gyms and fitness centers should open to full capacity but should maintain adequate sanitation practices among employees and patrons during all hours of operation.
State parks: State parks should be fully opened, including overnight accommodations.
Public beaches: Beaches should remain fully opened.
Large venues: (i.e., movie theaters, concert halls, auditoriums, bowling alleys, arcades, playhouses, casinos). These venues should reopen fully with limited social distancing protocols.
Large Sporting Events and Theme Parks
Large spectator sporting events should consider reducing capacity with limited social distancing protocols.
Theme parks may return to normal operations with limited social distancing
Vacation rentals should resume normal operating procedures but should continue to thoroughly clean and disinfect the property between rentals.
Personal Services Businesses
Personal services businesses, such as cosmetology salons, barber shops and nail salons, should operate under full capacity but should consider the following mitigation measures:
Continue to maintain adequate sanitation practices for employees and patrons.
Regularly clean and disinfect working stations and equipment between interactions
with customers to the greatest frequency feasible.
Remove all unnecessary, frequent-touch items such as magazines, newspapers,
service menus, any other unnecessary paper products and décor from customerservice areas.
Operators of retail businesses should operate at full capacity but should continue to
maintain adequate sanitation practices for employees and patrons.