As of Sep. 25, Gov. Ron DeSantis, R- Fla., reported that Florida will enter Phase 3 of reopening amid the pandemic.
This releases Florida businesses from all restrictions concerning the coronavirus pandemic. The decision is expected to impact all residents, employers and commercial businesses ranging from gyms to bars.
The reopening plan indicates Florida will move into Phase 3 “when there is no evidence of a rebound or resurgence of COVID-19 cases.” According to the Florida Department of Health, Florida experienced over 40,000 new cases of COVID-19 between Sep. 12 and Oct. 12.
The Phase 3 order states that “bars, pubs and nightclubs that derive more than 50% of sales from alcohol should operate at full capacity with limited social distancing protocols.”
Owners of bars, pubs and nightclubs have mixed feelings about the absence of restrictions. “We are evaluating each of our restaurants and will add some tables and seats, but not anything close to 100% capacity at this time,” stated restaurateur, Richard Gonzmart. Another restaurant owner, Evan Dimov, emphasized “full capacity, that is great news! That is fantastic.”
Similarly, Phase 3 allows for restaurants and other food service establishments to “operate at full capacity with limited social distancing protocols.” However, the reopening plan does recommend specific sanitation executions to further prevent the spread of COVID-19. For restaurants, this includes recommendations of paper menus and repeatedly cleaning laminated menus.
As businesses now hold the freedom to operate in any manner they please, a potential spike in sales may aid businesses after the mandatory shut down that began in March. Many native Florida businesses were forced to receive loans through the CARES Act. Ruth’s Chris, a steakhouse chain based in Winter Park, FL., received a loan of $20 million in April.
However, a company spokesperson for Ruth’s Chris told the Florida Political Review that the company “[was] eligible for this assistance, and our goal was to utilize funds to keep as many of our team members working for as long as possible…we made the decision to accelerate the repayment of the loan in May.”
Businesses being able to open at full capacity with limited social distancing could possibly improve Florida’s economy, but it is still unclear.
Experts seem to disagree with Florida’s move into Phase 3 of reopening. Dr. Ira Longini, biostatistician and epidemiologist, argued it is an “extraordinarily stupid move…Given the overall size of the epidemic in the U.S. and given the fact that we are heading into the fall and we still don’t know the full impact of the school and university openings, it seems quite premature to me to open up that much.”
Longini doesn’t stand alone in his view of the reopening. Sen. Audrey Gibson, D- Fla., explained that “no one is advocating for a full-scale lockdown in Florida, but we have been and continue to ask for common sense prevention measures such as face masks, which are essential to preventing further spread.”
At less than three weeks after DeSantis lifted all restrictions in Florida, it is simply too soon to tell what the effects will be. Jay Wolfson, a professor of public health at the University of South Florida, claimed that “if Florida sees a resurgence in bad coronavirus outcomes as a result of these openings, it likely won’t be felt for several weeks.”
Featured image: Florida businesses can now operate at full capacity.
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