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DeSantis opening bars, movie theaters

By Staff | Jun 3, 2020

Starting Friday, the reopening of bars and movie theaters will be allowed in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Wednesday.

The reopenings are the beginning of phase two of his economic plan for dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

DeSantis said the state’s rate of fatalities have slowed, particularly in the counties outside of Broward, Miami and Palm Beach. DeSantis said that even those latter counties have seen a slowing of cases which makes him confident to extend allowances for further reopenings there.

DeSantis made the announcement Wednesday at Universal Studios in Orlando, where there is a limited reopening this week. DeSantis said he wants amusement parks to work with local governments on reopening.

“In our phase two, we will be going with bars being able to operate” with diminished standing-room occupancy, DeSantis said. “You’re seated to get served.” Bars and pubs can operate at 50% capacity inside and full capacity outside with social distancing and seated service, DeSantis said. Restaurants can seat people at bars now as well. The executive order states that the reopening of bars does not extend to nightclubs.

* Entertainment

Movie theaters, playhouses, arcades and bowling alleys can reopen at 50% capacity with social distancing and the following of sanitization protocols.

Parimutuel facilities who present a safety plan with an endorsement from local officials will be able to operate.

“We just want to make sure there is a plan,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis fully supports the return of sporting events to Florida.

“I’m all-in from the state’s perspective,” DeSantis said regarding the return of sports to the state. “We’ve told baseball, Florida wants to be a part of the solution.”

DeSantis said he supports Major League Soccer and NBA games as well. Orlando could be center of the return of sports, he said.

“Hopefully we can announce something (soon) involving professional sports,” DeSantis said.

* Large gatherings

The executive order signed by DeSantis Wednesday encourages people to avoid gatherings of more than 50 people. DeSantis said people who are 65 or older or those with underlying medical conditions are strongly encouraged to avoid crowds. Approximately 80% of deaths from COVID-19 have been among people 65 or older in Florida. The order also calls for all people working in nursing homes to be regularly tested for COVID-19.

DeSantis said a plan for universities to reopen will be presented later this month.

The remaining personal services businesses not operating can return, including tattooing, body piercing, acupuncture, tanning and massage services, if they follow the appropriate safety guidances from the Department of Health.

“We’re really fortunate in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said. “It’s not like there haven’t been challenges. There obviously are challenges but I think generally speaking, (we) have weathered this better than anyone predicted. The virus isn’t gone. I think that we are testing a lot. We are identifying cases particularly in prisons, among agricultural workers, in areas where you have a lot of congregation, close quarters for a long period of time.”

DeSantis said this reopening of the economy would give people “more people in Florida more opportunities. I think it’s the right way to go forward.”

* Unemployment

More than $3.5 billion has been paid out for more than 1 million claims since pandemic started, DeSantis said. After a slow start where those filing claims were reporting no receipt of assistance after more than a month, DeSantis said an overhaul of the state’s unemployment assistance program has people receiving aid within 7-10 days of applying.

* Travel

Since quarantine orders went into effect for people traveling from COVID-19 hot spots, DeSantis said more than 50,000 people have been stopped at airports and on interstates from the New York City and Louisiana areas. “That deterred some people from coming,” he said. With cases now starting to slow in those regions, particularly in Louisiana, DeSantis said “we are going to look at that policy going forward.”