Gov. DeSantis reopens Florida

On Swann restaurant in Tampa operating at full capacity. Photo courtesy Octavio Jones | Getty Images

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced last Friday to fully reopen the state of Florida and further nullify all restrictions placed on businesses and individuals at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, despite an increase in cases.

The new executive order states that restaurants are now able to operate at full capacity and no local government may create restrictions to hinder these businesses from doing so.

Additionally, no employee can be prohibited from working due to COVID-19 regulations. DeSantis also permanently suspended local fines imposed on residents who fail to wear a mask in public.

“I think we need to get away from trying to penalize people for social distancing and just work with people constructively,” DeSantis told reporters in Saint Petersburg, Fla.

While the order pleased multiple small business and restaurant owners across the state, many residents are worried that this will only worsen Florida’s position in the COVID-19 pandemic. The state has recorded over 700,000 positive cases so far.

Some Floridians feel COVID-19 restrictions cannot be eradicated until a vaccine is introduced. Concern mainly stems from South Florida residents, who have been living in a COVID-19 hotspot since this summer.

Broward County Mayor Dale Holness, told a radio station in Miami, “We’re hoping that the governor will allow us to have deeper restrictions than the rest of the state. We have a greater spread of the virus in South Florida than other parts of the state.”

DeSantis’ order does allow for local governments to reduce bars and restaurants to operate at a minimum of 50% capacity. However, if a local government insists on reducing a restaurant from operating at full capacity, they must provide adequate reasoning.

The Miami-Dade County government maintains some restrictions throughout the district, keeping a county-wide curfew, restricting six people per table in a restaurant and requiring masks in certain closed spaces. The county has suspended fines to those not wearing masks in public, though individuals may still receive a citation.

In Tallahassee, cases have spiked since the return of students at Florida A&M University, Florida State University and Tallahassee Community College, from all over the nation. So far, FSU has reported almost 1,500 positive cases and FAMU has reported 88 positive cases since August. The number of cases at TCC are not known.

Regarding schools, several Tallahassee educators protested schools reopening in the midst of the pandemic, with some teachers even refusing to come back to work.

Many stores and restaurants in the area have reopened their doors without any COVID-19 restrictions. Despite the governor’s order, many individuals still maintain their masks and the 6 feet ordinance when operating in public.

“The governor has to do what’s best for the state and economically, I guess this is a good decision. However, we have to do what’s best for us, which is why people should still wear their masks and follow certain COVID measures,” Nur Suleiman says, a third year student at FAMU.

Residents and government officials alike question DeSantis’ motives for his executive order, thinking this is more for the economy than for public health, especially since DeSantis mentioned proudly that Florida will be ready to host Superbowl LV in February.

On average, COVID-19 hospitalizations have decreased in Florida, though the virus is still spreading.

It is unclear if the executive order will harm, or help Florida. Many people are playing the situation by ear while migrating back into public, but still protecting themselves with COVID-19 safety measures.

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