Florida forges forward in lifting curbs amid virus issues

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Florida forges ahead in lifting curbs amid virus concerns

Guests will dine at a restaurant in Winter Park, Florida on Friday, October 2, 2020. In an effort to get the state back to normal, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis lifted restrictions on indoor seating in restaurants, saying they could be 100% functional with communities with no restrictions and that other local governments do not change indoor seating can restrict more than 50%. (AP Photo / John Raoux)

As the summer coronavirus spike subsides in the Sunbelt states, Florida has moved furthest away from waiver restrictions, particularly in restaurants where the burden of keeping safety has been shifted onto business owners and local residents, raising concerns about resurgence.

In an effort to get the state back to normal, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis lifted restrictions on indoor seating in restaurants, saying they can work 100% in cities and counties without restrictions and that other local governments agree with some Restrictions inside cannot restrict seating by more than 50%.

In some of Florida's tourist areas, visitors have since flocked to bars and restaurants, filling terraces, resisting mask orders, and drawing mixed reactions from business owners and other customers.

"We're generally concerned that we're on the other side of an upside-down curve, wiping out any progress we've made," said Albert Garcia, chairman of the Wynwood Business Improvement District, which includes 50 blocks of restaurants and bars in Miami's trendy art district.

Other Sunbelt states that were COVID-19 hotspots this summer haven't gone that far. In Texas, bars have been closed since June by order of Republican Governor Greg Abbott, and restaurants can hold up to 75% of capacity while face coverings are required across the state. And in Arizona restaurants and bars have to operate at half capacity.

Florida is making strides in lifting curbs amid virus problems
Guests will dine at a restaurant in Winter Park, Florida on Friday, October 2, 2020. In an effort to get the state back to normal, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis lifted restrictions on indoor seating in restaurants, saying they could be 100% operational with communities with no restrictions and that other local governments would not allow indoor seating limit by more than 50%. (AP Photo / John Raoux)

Although Florida’s governor generally wears a mask when he comes to public appearances and has allowed communities to impose mask rules, he has refused to impose a statewide mandate. And on September 25, as the state entered a Phase 3 reopening, it banned municipalities from imposing fines for mask violations.

According to DeSantis, contact tracing hasn't shown restaurants to be a significant source of exposure.

"I am confident that these restaurants want a safe environment," he said earlier this week. "And I'm also confident that if you don't go and don't believe they are taking precautions, obviously you, the consumer, will take your business elsewhere."

Craig O'Keefe, managing partner of Johnnie Brown and Lionfish in Delray Beach, said they are now taking in as many people as they were before the pandemic started and he's hired eight people in the past few days. The demand rose sharply last weekend.

Florida is making strides in lifting curbs amid virus problems
Guests dine at a restaurant in Winter Park, Florida on Friday, October 2, 2020. In an effort to get the state back to normal, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis lifted restrictions on indoor seating in restaurants, saying they could be 100% operational with communities with no restrictions and that other local governments would not allow indoor seating limit by more than 50%. (AP Photo / John Raoux)

"It was like someone had turned on the light," said O & # 39; Keefe. "It was great to see people smile and have fun seeing each other. It was really nice to get people back to work."

Deadlocks and restrictions have hurt Florida's economy, leaving hundreds of thousands unemployed in the tourist-dependent state.

Earlier this week, the Walt Disney Co. announced it was laying off 28,000 employees in its theme parks division, even after Florida parks were allowed to reopen this summer.

Florida has recorded more than 14,500 deaths from the pandemic, ranking 12th per capita among the states. The outbreak peaked in the summer, adding up to 12,000 to 15,000 cases per day. New cases, positivity rates, hospitalizations, and deaths have been declining for several weeks. Still, the state has been adding 2,000 to 3,000 cases a day over the past few weeks.

Florida is making strides in lifting curbs amid virus problems
Guests dine at a restaurant in Winter Park, Florida on Friday, October 2, 2020. In an effort to get the state back to normal, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis lifted restrictions on indoor seating in restaurants, saying they could be 100% functional with communities with no restrictions and that other local governments do not change indoor seating can restrict more than 50%. (AP Photo / John Raoux)

Dr. Peter Hotez, an infectious disease specialist at Baylor College of Medicine and co-director of Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, said the Florida easing of restrictions was a "mistake" that would make transmission in the community one Might increase time in which teachers are called back to school.

"It really sends the message, implicitly or explicitly, that it's okay. It's normal now and it's not the case. We're still in a very serious situation," said Dr. Hotez this week to members of the Hispanic Caucus of Congress.

In South Florida, Miami-Dade County's Mayor Carlos Gimenez said Friday he was concerned about a slight increase in hospital stays in recent days and warned people not to lose their vigilance, taking the diagnosis of COVID-19 The virus used by President Donald Trump as an example is highly contagious.

Gimenez has consulted with attorneys and staff about what rules local governments could continue to enforce without violating new government orders. The county plans to limit many restaurants to 50% indoor capacity and continue to require masks in public.

Florida is making strides in lifting curbs amid virus problems
Guests dine at a restaurant in Winter Park, Florida on Friday, October 2, 2020. In an effort to get the state back to normal, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis lifted restrictions on indoor seating in restaurants, saying they could be 100% operational with communities with no restrictions and that other local governments would not allow indoor seating limit by more than 50%. (AP Photo / John Raoux)

11pm curfew keeps nightlife under control, and the county even restricts loud music at venues so people don't have to scream, which is believed to be more likely to spread the virus.

"I think there's a lot of confusion because people thought that was it – it's all open," Gimenez told reporters. "We're still not out of the woods."

Omer Horev is co-owner of Pura Vida, a Miami coffee shop chain with locations in iconic South Beach, the Design District near downtown, and the University of Miami. Horev said he doesn't loosen any rules in his business. The store managers told him that some customers violated their masking rules after placing the new order from DeSantis and that he hadn't seen any local enforcement in the past week.

"We're in that gray area where you don't know what's being enforced," he said. "I feel safe. I agree, as long as restaurant operators like us and others do the right thing to ensure the safety of employees and guests."

Florida is making strides in lifting curbs amid virus problems
In this September 25, 2020 file photo, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announces the opening of the third phase of state restrictions, especially for restaurants, at a press conference in St. Petersburg, Florida, where the burden of ensuring safety is on Business owners and residents alike have been relocating, raising concerns of resurgence. (John Pendygraft / Tampa Bay Times via AP, File)

In Tallahassee, Denise Barber, a 65-year-old retired government official, was eating out almost every day before the pandemic. She is now able to eat out again, but only in places that are more careful than necessary. She checks or calls a restaurant's Facebook page to review their rules.

"I want to eat more. I can still do it, but I have to do a lot of research to find a place," she said.

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