Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a new executive order Wednesday, paving the way for a gradual reopening of the state as officials seek to put the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic in their rear-view mirrors.
At a press conference, the governor announced that his “safer-at-home” order, which limited commerce to essential services and was set to expire at the end of April, would be extended to May 4.
After that, looser rules in his new executive order — dubbed the “Phase 1: Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step. Plan for Florida’s Recovery” — will be the law of the land.
Restaurants may once again welcome diners to sit down in their eateries, but they must limit their indoor occupancy to 25 percent and implement social-distancing measures by, for example, keeping bar counters closed. Eateries are also encouraged to seat people outdoors.
Hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers may once again perform elective surgeries, but they must set aside some capacity in their facilities as “surge capacity,” in case of a new wave of COVID-19 infections.
The facility must also have adequate personal protective equipment without relying on state resources, according to the new order.
Non-essential retail stores, museums and libraries can also open, if permitted by local governments, at 25 percent of their normal occupancy levels.
In the first phase of the reopening, bars, pubs and nightclubs that derive more than 50 percent of their gross revenue from the sale of alcoholic beverages will still not be allowed to sell alcohol for on-premises consumption.
Gyms and fitness centers, also, will remain closed for the time being. Restrictions on visiting nursing homes and long-term-care facilities will also remain in place.
DeSantis said a “phase 2” of the reopening, when riskier businesses involving more social contact like bars, hair salons and gyms would be allowed to reopen, will happen in consultation with medical officials, and only if state medical data continues to point in the right direction.