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DeSantis shuts down Florida bars, nightclubs for 30 days, limits beach crowds

Margie Manning

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Bars and nightclubs in Florida won’t be operating for the next month.

Gov. Ron DeSantis made that announcement Tuesday morning, as part of several updates on the impact of Covid-19 coronavirus and the state’s efforts to contain the spread. He’s also limiting capacity in restaurants and on the state’s beaches.

“Bars and nightclubs, effective 5 p.m. today, they will be suspended for 30 days in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said. “You’ve seen people congregating … We view that as something that could be problematic for spreading the virus. Stealth carriers, people who don’t have symptoms, or have such mild symptoms but are never-the-less passing it along. Nobody really has a handle on that. If they’re not meeting in those big groups, then the chance of that being passed on is less.”

DeSantis also wants to see Florida universities use remote learning for the rest of the spring semester. The board last week directed all state universities to make plans to transition to remote instruction as soon as possible. At University of South Florida, online instruction will begin March 23, when students return from spring break. USF said it would continue for at least two weeks through April 5, but DeSantis is recommending the board of governors extend that for all state universities.

“One of the things we’ve noticed is with the spring break, a lot of students have been congregating at the universities, going out and doing things there, and that’s not something we want,” he said. “The goal is that the students not stay congregated on campus, but actually return home. We think that will be safer for everybody, and we think the universities are equipped to be able to handle the remote learning.”

He said the board of governors would talk to university presidents and he expected an announcement about extended remote learning soon.

Florida restaurants are being told to limit seating capacity by 50 percent and make sure seats are separated by at least six feet.

“We’re also going to be requiring that restaurants screen all employees and prohibit entry for employees that may have a positive response to any of the trigger question in terms of health,” DeSantis said.

He called his order the “floor” for Florida for the foreseeable future, and said he supported the efforts of local communities that might take stronger steps.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman on Monday ordered 50 percent reduced occupancy for all restaurants, cafes, bars, movie theaters, gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys and the Cross Bay Ferry. Both DeSantis and Kriseman are encouraging people to use take-out and delivery options from restaurants, which at least in St. Petersburg is proving popular.

Kriseman also reacted to DeSantis’ announcement on restaurants.

DeSantis said he talked to several mayors Tuesday morning; his schedule indicated Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos was among them

“We’re going to be applying the statewide guidance of no group on a beach of more than 10 and you have to have distance apart if you are going to be out there. That will apply statewide. Different localities will make decisions about what makes sense,” DeSantis said. “I think the steps we are taking will help reduce density, reduce crowds and that’s the best thing we can do at this point.”

See a copy of the governor’s executive order here: DeSantis Executive Order 20-68

 

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