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Florida begins to reopen. What’s different today?

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With Florida’s safe-at-home order expiring, many stores, malls, restaurants, museums that were shuttered for the past few weeks can reopen today -- with limitations.

Under phase one of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ latest executive order, businesses considered nonessential can open at 25% capacity, hospitals can resume scheduling nonemergency procedures, hotels and other lodges can resume accepting guests, and most state parks will reopen.

But a lot of businesses can’t reopen in phase one, including that barbers, hairstylists, gyms, personal services and bars. And just because businesses can reopen, some may not if they don’t feel they or their customers are ready.

If you read the seven-page “Safe. Smart. Step-by-Stop Plan” Executive Order 20-112, there’s not much detail. The state will also continue to isolate people traveling to Florida, with exceptions for military, emergency, health, infrastructure or commercial activity.

Here’s a summary for what will happen/not be different on Monday:

  • Schools must keep distance learning.
  • Visits to senior living facilities remain prohibited.
  • Elective surgeries can resume.
  • Indoor seating at restaurants must be at 25% capacity. Restaurants may offer outdoor seating with six feet of space between tables.
  • Libraries and museums can also open at 25% capacity with local government approval.
  • No change for bars, nightclubs, gyms and personal services, like hairdressers.
  • Sporting events can resume and sports venues can reopen but with no spectators.
  • Vulnerable individuals should continue to avoid close contact with people outside the home.
  • Everyone should maximize physical distance from others while in public.
  • Avoid socializing in groups of more than 10 people in circumstances that do not “readily allow for physical distancing.”
  • Churches and houses of worship were never closed so there is no change in phase one, although any building or venue that is open should continue to follow appropriate social distancing and sanitation procedures.
  • Child care facilities that could follow proper social distancing protocols were never closed and there is no change in that rule.
  • Face masks are recommended but not required for those in face-to-face interactions and where you can’t social distance.
  • Violation of 25% capacity limits and other restrictions remain a second-degree misdemeanor with a fine up to $500. Regulated businesses may face enforcement action for violations from their regulatory agency.
  • State parks will reopen beginning on Monday

According to the plan, essential business guidance will continue, meaning if a business was essential before, what they were doing is basically still fine. The executive order does not contain a preemption on local rules, so cities or counties could limit activities that the state will allow.

The limited reopening order applies for all Florida counties except Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Broward counties, DeSantis said.

“We will get Florida back on its feet,” DeSantis said last week.

With requirements to operate at 25% capacity, have no parties larger than 10, use paper menus and more, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association expectations to see only 25% to 30% of restaurants open their dining rooms.

“It’s a start,” said Geoff Luebkemann, vice president of the association.

The Re-Opening Florida Task Force commissioned by the governor recommended allowing restaurants to operate at 75% capacity and for bars to reopen at 50% in phase two. DeSantis has not said when the state would advance to phase two or allow the opening of many businesses other states opened in phase one.

Among the questions left unanswered was when businesses that have implemented work-from-home orders are allowed to reopen their offices.

A slide from Gov. Ron DeSantis' Power Point presentation as he announced phase one of the state's reopening.
A slide from Gov. Ron DeSantis' Power Point presentation as he announced phase one of the state's reopening.

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