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Reopening Florida: Phase 3 - 100% capacity, no masks, social distancing

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Friday that Florida, effective immediately, is moving to the third and final phase of its reopening the state: meaning restaurants, bars, salons, and other businesses will be allowed to reopen under full capacity.

Florida’s phased reopening stages are part of its “Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step” plan.

Executive Order 20-244 puts the entire Sunshine State into Phase 3 of the COVID-19 recovery plan. However, this does not preclude the County from having its own rules, as approved by the state. The order means that businesses can allow more guests to enter. It also eliminated public mask mandates. However check to see if there is still an active mask mandate within your county.

“Every business has the right to operate. If some of the locals, they can do reasonable regulation, but you can’t just say ‘no’ after six months and just have people twisting in the wind,” he added.

If you're confused about Phase 3, you're not alone.

Florida Has Announced Phase 3 Reopening. What Does That Mean?

DeSantis made the determination that the state was ready to move past Phase 2 based on the state continuing a downward trend in new COVID-19 cases while maintaining adequate health-care capacity.

It also maintains that individuals should continue to social-distance and minimize time spent in large crowds, and businesses should practice adequate sanitation practices in order to stem the spread of coronavirus.

Here’s what changes under Phase 3:

  • Restaurants, bars and nightclubs that derive more than 50% of sales from alcohol can operate at full capacity. Plastic menus should be cleaned after each use.

  • Gyms and fitness centers can open at full capacity

  • Other businesses that can reopen with limited social distancing; movie theaters, concert halls, auditoriums, bowling alleys, arcades, playhouses and casinos)

  • Businesses should continue to encourage employees to work remotely but should begin implementing plans for them to return to work.

  • Employees can resume non-essential travel and adhere to CDC guidelines regarding isolation following travel

  • Local governments can resume in-person meetings

  • State parks can fully reopen, including for overnight stays, public beaches can fully reopen

  • Large sporting events can resume, but limited capacity is recommended

  • Theme parks can return to normal operations with limited social distancing protocols.

  • Vacation rentals can reopen, but owners should continue disinfecting

  • Business such as salons, barber shops and nail salons should maintain sanitation practices between customer visits and remove frequent-touch items such as magazines, newspapers and service menus.

  • Businesses can still require customers to wear masks, but DeSantis said "all outstanding fines and penalties that have been applied against individuals are suspended."

The order still calls for older residents and vulnerable populations with underlying medical conditions to heed caution and avoid large crowds while practicing social distancing.

The Phase 3 order will allow businesses, restaurants, theme parks to go to 100% full capacity from their current 50% limits, and lifts any restrictions on gatherings, although the state is still recommending that people avoid crowded spaces.

Local counties and cities may still impose a minimum 50% capacity restriction as long as they can "quantify the economic impact of each limitation or requirement on those restaurants and explain why each limitation or requirement is necessary for public health.”

“We’re also saying in the state of Florida, everybody has an opportunity and the right to work,” DeSantis said in announcing the reopening in St. Petersburg.

The executive order issued by DeSantis took effect immediately. It effectively overrules local COVID-19 requirements for bars and restaurants.

Mask or no Mask? County struggles with Coronavirus Confusion in Phase 3

The order also prohibits local governments from collecting fines stemming from such pandemic-related mandates as mask requirements. Many fear removing this penalty will undermine local mask policies that are in place in most of Florida’s urban areas which may create a sudden surge in COVID cases.

Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Broward leaders say that face mask rules are still in effect and businesses can still be issued a citation for mask violations.

Palm Beach County Administrator Verdenia Baker has issued Emergency Order 2020-028, effective as of 5:00 P.M. on September 29. The requirements of Emergency Order 2020-012 are still in place and all individuals, businesses, and establishments  must use facial coverings in all businesses and establishments; in public places where social distancing is not possible; in common areas within private communities accessible to more than one housing unit; when utilizing the Palm Tran services and when accessing governmental buildings. In addition, businesses and establishments shall continue to ensure compliance with facial covering mandates, including establishing a process for verification of compliance upon customer entry into the business or establishment.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez says citations for not wearing masks will continue and that the county will pursue collecting the $100 mask fines once the governor’s order is lifted.

Officials say the governor’s order creates confusion about what they can and can’t enforce. “We are just kind of taking a wait-and-see approach,” said Delray Beach City Attorney Lynn Gelin.

In South Florida, local governments have issued their own emergency orders, which contradicts some of what Gov. DeSantis had outlined.

The public health argument is being made that restrictions are still needed to continue to reduce the spread of the virus in a region that has long been a hot spot and consistently leads the state in new cases and deaths.

"The governor has just made it very clear that he wants these restaurants open and that he essentially has pre-empted the counties and the cities from being able to regulate them.”

She said that barring any action from Palm Beach County leaders, DeSantis' order ties her city government’s hands from creating tougher restrictions at the moment. “We’re back to the status quo,” she said.

In an interview with “Good Morning America” on Monday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the eased restrictions in Florida are “very concerning.”


✔️ Yes, still wear a mask in public. It's may not be mandatory in all places, but it is a matter of respect and safety.

✔️ Please be extra kind to all essential workers taking care of us during this pandemic.

✔️ Continue to frequently wash your hands for at least 20 seconds and/or use approved hand sanitizers in between washes.

✔️ Yes, still social distance 6 feet apart and avoid crowds.

✔️ Do not go in public if you are ill.

✔️ Please contact your doctor immediately if you are showing in COVID symptoms.


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