TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – After a two-hour roundtable discussion with scientists who argued COVID-19 restrictions hurt society, while more openness doesn’t increase risk significantly, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday said he would soon ease restrictions on bars and restaurants.
Three scientists comprised of two Stanford medical professors and another from Harvard Medical School told DeSantis society is better off with fewer COVID-19 restrictions.
The experts acknowledged that their views were outside the mainstream of thought within the public health community. And their views mostly aligned with that of the governor.
“Lockdowns are not a way to eliminate the disease. Lockdowns have never in history eradicated a disease and they will not do that in this case either,” said Sanford professor Dr. Jay Bhattacharya.
They said to protect the elderly first, who are much higher risk but argued against masks on third graders and restrictions on college students.
“The students should be on campus and they should go in person to their classes,” said Harvard professor Dr. Martin Kuldorff.
DeSantis said Florida State University, among others, has gone too far with its restrictions.
“I just don’t think policing them off-campus is likely to be effective,” said DeSantis.
While the number of infections have spiked in recent weeks among college-age Floridians, DeSantis and the experts he convened said they were not alarmed because many of them never develop serious symptoms.
News4Jax asked if DeSantis was planning on lifting restrictions on bars and restaurants.
“We can’t have these businesses dying. So they are not going to be able to be closed by locals anymore and they will be able to operate at the capacity they are comfortable with. So that’s gonna happen,” said DeSantis.
As described by the governor, the state has the authority to override local ordinances because it licenses restaurants and bars.
“Everyone in Florida has a right to work. Everyone in Florida has a right to operate a business,” said DeSantis.
DeSantis did acknowledge that Florida could see a second wave of cases.
“People shouldn’t think it’s over. They shouldn’t think it’s done. We could easily see a resurgence. I don’t think anybody knows,” said DeSantis.
The unknown is when the DeSantis will issue the order for bars and restaurants or how and when he will implement a bill of rights for college students.
The governor also encouraged Disney and other theme parks that have voluntarily limited visitors to allow more people to visit the parks.
On Thursday, Florida added 2,541 coronavirus cases, bringing the statewide total to 693,040 infected. The state also reported 177 new fatalities, bringing the total among Florida residents to 13,795 deaths.