Florida Governor Fully Removes Covid Restrictions on Bars, Restaurants

Gov. Ron DeSantis shows a card stating COVID-19 survival rates by age group as he announces phase three openings at news conference in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday. (John Pendygraft/Tampa Bay Times via AP)

MIAMI, Fla. (CN) — Florida will soon see bustling restaurants, bars and other businesses as the state immediately moves into Phase 3 of its re-opening process, Governor Ron DeSantis announced on Friday. 

The Republican Governor said at a press conference that he signed an order to push the state further toward reopening in order to boost Florida’s economy, telling reporters “We’re not closing anything going forward.”

He said the state will not impose any capacity limitations on restaurants and bars, though local rules may determine whether bars can surpass their current 50% limit in order to operate at 100% capacity.

“If a local 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,” the governor clarified.

“If you want to go beyond the 50, you can authorize it and do it. We’re not telling you you have to, but we’re not going to stand in the way of that,” he added.

In Palm Beach County, according to County Mayor Dave Kerner on Friday night, businesses are allowed to reopen immediately under the governor’s order.

The county may still continue to restrict capacity to 50%, however. 

The Florida Department of Health reported to the Agency for Health Care Administration on Friday that 695,887 individuals have tested positive for Covid-19 in the Sunshine State and 13,915 residents have died of the virus so far.

The number of Covid-19 positive patients currently hospitalized in the state is down more than 70% since July. Still, Florida has seen 18,340 new cases in the last seven days.  

DeSantis recognized on Friday that the Covid-19 pandemic is persistent in the state, but vowed to “get away from trying to penalize people” over social distancing.

He announced the suspension of “all outstanding fines and penalties that have been applied against individuals” who violated pandemic-related mandates such as mask requirements. 

DeSantis said he hoped to move forward in a more “collaborative” way as he announced that his plan bars cities and counties from collecting such fines.

The governor, a stalwart supporter of President Donald Trump, said the state is prepared should a spike in infections occur later on.

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