Gov. DeSantis calls for restaurants to remain open amid spike in virus cases

Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference in West Palm Beach. (Copyright 2020 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis reiterated his desire to see Florida restaurants remain open despite the recent surge in coronavirus cases.

During a press conference Tuesday at Okeechobee Steakhouse in West Palm Beach, DeSantis said he would work to stop any attempt by the local government leaders to shut down restaurants.

“If they want to shut down businesses, I’m gonna stand in the way,” DeSantis said. “I’m gonna stand with these folks here because they have a right to make a living. And I don’t think the government has a right to put these people out of work and to not let them put food on the table for their family.”

DeSantis referenced a recent contact tracing study done in New York that found restaurants and bars accounted for 1.43% of COVID-19 cases recorded between September through the end of November. The study found that nearly 75% of COVID-19 cases were spread through private gatherings.

“It doesn’t mean it can’t happen here. But I think we have to understand the vast, vast majority of infections are occurring in people’s homes, particularly if you have people getting together,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis has promised no more lockdowns in the state and extended an order that bans local governments from enforcing mask mandate violations.

The Florida Department of Health on Tuesday reported more than 9,400 cases of the coronavirus and another 94 deaths in Florida. More than 1.1 million people have been infected since the pandemic started and more than 20,000 people have died in the state.

Earlier Tuesday, DeSantis told News4Jax that Pfizer vaccine shipments are on hold in Florida for the next two weeks because they’ve been removed from the system. DeSantis said he isn’t sure what’s going on with production.

He also said there will be more information coming on getting the vaccine to those who are most vulnerable in long-term care facilities.

“I really hope if we get the 1.16 million [Pfizer vaccines], you’ll be able to do frontline workers, nursing home residents, a lot of nursing home staff, then really start to get it into the elderly population as a whole. Ultimately, we need to provide this for elderly,” DeSantis said. “That’s what we’re really going to be focusing on once we get through these initial shipments.”

Early next week, about 367,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine is expected to arrive in Florida, but DeSantis added that widespread vaccinations likely won’t happen in the state until the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which requires one dose and can be stored with normal refrigeration, becomes widely available next year.

Politico reports the company could have enough safety data to submit an application to FDA for emergency use by late January.

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