Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has unveiled the first phase of a three-phase plan for reopening Florida’s economy.
Starting Monday, restaurants will be able to offer limited on-site dining, retailers will be permitted to allow some foot traffic in their stores, and elective surgeries can resume, DeSantis said at a late Wednesday news conference.
However, some businesses such as bars, gyms and hair salons still must remain closed, and schools will continue distance learning through the end of the school year.
“We will get Florida back on its feet by using an approach that is safe, smart and step-by-step,” DeSantis said.
Click here to see DeSantis’ new executive order, and scroll down to see a list of frequently asked questions about the new order.
The first phase of the reopening plan currently does not include three southeast Florida counties — Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach — that have been hardest hit by Covid-19.
Covid-19 has taken both a human and economic toll over the past couple of months. As of 10 a.m. Wednesday, Florida has had 33,193 confirmed cases of Covid-19 with 1,218 deaths. The unemployment rate has soared as business operations were restricted.
Restaurants have been limited to take-out and delivery only since mid-March. A statewide stay at home order that took effect April 3 spelled out what were essential services and activities and caused many retailers to close because their services were not deemed essential by local governments.
During the news conference, DeSantis cited a variety of health care measures that he said indicated the number of Covid-19 cases in Florida are not increasing as rapidly as they had earlier.
Highlights of the first phase of the plan are:
• Elective surgeries can resume.
• Restaurants may offer outdoor seating with six-foot space between tables and indoor seating at 25 percent capacity, so long as they follow CDC guidelines.
• Retail can operate at 25 percent of indoor capacity.
• Schools will continue distance learning.
• Visits to senior living facilities are still prohibited.
• No change for bars, gyms and personal services such as hair dressers.
DeSantis said he’s looking at how other states are handling gyms and personal service providers, and if he sees guidelines that make sense, he will re-evaluate that issue.
He also said vulnerable individuals should continue to avoid close contact with people outside the home and that all individuals when in public should maximize their physical distance from others in public. He said people should avoid socializing in groups of more than 10 people. Faces masks are recommended, but not required, for all those in face-to-face interactions and in cases when social distancing is not possible.
Reporters at the news conference asked DeSantis what retail business owners should understand about phase one. He said the new executive order he will issue continues the “essential business” framework from the stay at home order, but expands that to allow “responsible activities.”
The state rules don’t pre-empt local government from taking stricter measures, DeSantis said, but he added that many Florida counties have a very low number of cases and physicians have encouraged the move to the first phase of the plan. “To say that these modest steps are somehow not acceptable, that’s going against medical judgment and I don’t think [local government officials] want to do that,” DeSantis said.
The DeSantis plan is modeled on a recovery plan from the White House, with a few variations. For instance, the White House plan called for movie theaters to open in phase one, something DeSantis said he didn’t think was a good idea.
DeSantis said he has no specific time frame before moving to phase two, but he expects it would be weeks, not months. The second phase could include bars opening on a limited basis and social distancing in large venues. While fans are not currently allowed at sporting events, “if the trends are good, as you get into June and July, I think there is a window to have some fans,” DeSantis said.
Before moving to phase two of the plan, the state will continue to monitor hospital capacity and resources.
“If we start seeing more and more people going into the hospital and it might be a surge they can’t handle, that is something we’re going to look at and take into account,” he said. “As long as we’re not seeing a flood of people into the hospitals, that obviously will be good progress.”
The state also plans to increase testing, with 30,000 to 40,000 tests a day administered starting next week. That may lead to an increase in the total number of cases, but DeSantis said what he will watch is the “positivity rate,” or the percentage of people who are tested who are positive for Covid-19.
Here is a list of frequently asked questions about the governor’s phase one plan.
When did the Governor’s Executive Order take effect? How long does it last?
The Governor’s Executive Order takes effect Monday, May 4, 2020 at 12:01 a.m. and lasts until the Governor issues a subsequent order.
Is the “Safer at Home” Order over?
The Governor’s Executive Order 20-91, Essential Services and Activities is extended until 12:01 a.m. Monday, May 4, by Executive Order 20-111. At that point, Executive Order 20-112 will maintain limitations on the movements of persons except for those businesses and services that are currently open and those businesses that re-open at 25 percent building occupancy.
Does this order apply to all Florida counties?
This order is in effect statewide, however in coordination with Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach county mayors, these three counties will follow stricter protocol without the re-open provisions of Executive Order 20-112.
Is the Governor’s Executive Order consistent with the President’s Opening Up America Again Plan?
Governor DeSantis met with President Trump on April 28th to discuss this plan and the President was very supportive of Florida’s efforts to take a safe, smart, step-by-step approach to re-open Florida. See President Trump’s guidance here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/openingamerica/.
Does this Executive Order supersede local law?
The Governor’s Executive Order 20-91 limiting the movements of persons has been incorporated and modified in the new Executive Order 20-112 to include businesses currently open and certain businesses re-opening at 25 percent building occupancy. The Governor’s Executive Orders do not contain a preemption on local rules where those rules restrict or close businesses or buildings.
When can we expect Phase 2 to start?
Once the Governor determines it is suitable to continue re-opening and after fully considering medical data in consultation with state health officials.
Can I go to my doctor if it’s not COVID-19 related?
Medical services, including elective procedures, surgical centers, office surgery centers, dental offices, orthodontic offices, endodontic office and other health care practitioners offices may fully re-open. As a condition of resuming elective procedures, hospitals will be required to assist nursing homes and long-term care facilities in their efforts to protect the vulnerable.
However, they must maintain adequate bed capacity and PPE. They must also have the capacity to immediately convert additional surgical and intensive care beds in a surge situation and must not have received or sought any additional federal, state or local government assistance regarding PPE after resuming elective procedures.
May senior citizens and individuals with significant medical conditions leave their homes to go to the grocery store or pharmacy, or go for a walk, or go to work?
Yes, they may leave their homes to obtain or provide open services or conduct open activities.
Can individuals visit nursing homes and long-term care facilities?
No, those restrictions will remain in place in Phase 1 of the Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step. Plan for Florida’s Recovery and with conditions set by the Agency for Health Care Administration.
Is airport screening and isolation in effect for visitors from highly affected COVID-19 areas?
Yes, this order extends Executive Order 20-80, Airport Screening and Isolation, and Executive Order 20-82, Isolation of Individuals traveling to Florida, with exceptions for military, emergency, health, infrastructure or commercial related activity.
Can I open my business?
Restaurants will be allowed to re-open, with full outdoor seating. Indoor seating will be allowed at 25 percent of building capacity. On-site sale and retail businesses will be allowed to operate at 25 percent occupancy.
If your business is open, it may remain open and should continue appropriate social distancing and sanitation measures. Also, any activity or work that has been available under the previous order remains available. Businesses should adopt appropriate social distancing and sanitation measures.
What businesses will remain closed?
Bars, nightclubs and gyms will remain closed during Phase 1 of re-opening. While personal care services such as barbershops and salons with close contact should remain closed, the portions of those businesses with on-site retail sales may re-open at 25 percent building occupancy.
May my business and its employees continue to operate remotely and provide delivery of our product?
Yes, all businesses are encouraged to provide delivery or pickup and to take orders online or by telephone.
Are there minimum health protocols that must be met to open my business?
Yes, the Governor’s Executive Order 20-112 requires appropriate social distancing and limits groups to 10 people or fewer. Regulated businesses should adhere to agency guidance. Additionally, businesses should consult with the most up-to-date Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance.
What do I need to do to open my business?
Review the requirements of the Governor’s Executive Order 20-112. Also review any guidance that has been provided from state and federal regulatory agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Florida Department of Health and the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
Do employee temperature checks need to be done?
For restaurants, employee protocols remain in place under the Governor’s Executive Order. Other businesses should adopt appropriate measures based on CDC guidance.
Are masks required for employees and customers?
The Governor’s Executive Order does not mandate the use of masks. However customers, employees and employers should consult CDC guidance.
If a business exceeds 25 percent capacity, do they get fined?
Yes, enforcement penalties remain in place including a second-degree misdemeanor with a fine up to $500. Certain regulated businesses may face enforcement action for violations from their regulatory agency.
Should individuals go to facilities that have not re-opened?
Individuals should travel only to businesses that have been open or are now re-opened.
Who enforces compliance?
Local and state law enforcement continue to enforce Executive Orders, along with the regulatory agencies that oversee businesses.
Can I visit or travel to a family member?
Yes, if caring for or otherwise assisting a loved one or friend.
May I exercise outside or participate in recreational activities?
Yes, if consistent with social distancing guidelines as published by the CDC.
Are gyms open?
No, gyms and fitness centers should remain closed.
Can I go to a professional sporting event?
No, sporting venues may operate but without spectators.
May churches, synagogues, or other houses of worship hold services?
Yes. The Governor’s Executive Order 20-91 identified attending religious services at churches, synagogues and places of worship as an open activity. While that order did not place restrictions directly on any building or venue, many local orders have done so. Any building or venue that is open should continue to follow appropriate social distancing and sanitation procedures.
The Florida Department of Health encourages them to follow CDC guidance specific to faith organizations.
Can I rent or stay at a vacation rental?
No, the prohibition on vacation rentals remains in effect.
Are state parks and beaches open?
The Governor’s Executive Orders have not closed beaches other than those at the request of Broward and Palm Beach counties (Executive Order 20-90). Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection will announce a phased-in re-opening of state parks.
May childcare centers remain open?
Yes, if currently able to open and as long as they follow proper social distancing protocols. Florida Department of Education has prioritized children of medical professionals and first responders working at businesses or operations that are essential services, to the extent those childcare centers adhere to social distancing.
Are museums and libraries open?
Museums and libraries may open at no more than 25 percent of their building occupancy as long as their local government allows. Interactive shared exhibits, like child play areas, remain closed.
LOCAL GOVERNANCE & ENFORCEMENT
Are local authorities allowed to adopt requirements directly on businesses, operations or venues, including buildings, beaches and parks, that may be stricter than the Governor’s Executive Order?
How is the Governor’s Executive Order enforced?
By law enforcement. Violation of the Governor’s Executive Order is a second-degree misdemeanor.
Where can I report a business that violates the Governor’s Executive Order?
Local law enforcement.
Do I need a special permit to leave my house if I am going to an essential service or essential activity?
No. Some businesses may wish to provide a letter to employees to clarify that their business is indeed an open service.