DeSantis announces Phase 3 of reopening, lifts restrictions on restaurant capacity

Local News

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Governor Ron DeSantis is ready to propel Florida into Phase 3.

Speaking to a group of reporters and restaurant managers in St. Petersburg, the governor announced Friday that he is issuing an executive order, allowing restaurants to operate at a minimum of 50 percent regardless of local rule.

The Phase 3 order will take effect immediately, DeSantis said.

“We’re not closing anything going forward,” he added.

DeSantis’ executive order states that “no COVID-19 emergency ordinance may prevent an individual from working or operating a business, giving Floridians and business owners needed certainty and the ability to provide for themselves and their families.”

Florida saw a slight uptick in coronavirus cases Friday but is seeing fewer infections than in the spring and summer. The state reported 2,847 new cases and 120 deaths on Friday, the sixth consecutive day with less than 3,000 new cases.

“All these indicators have gone down since July,” DeSantis said. “We need everyone to be able to go to work.”

Most of Florida has been in Phase 2 since early June. Under phase 2, bars and restaurants were allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity. Phase 3 means local restaurants can open at a minimum of 50 percent capacity and are allowed to operate at full capacity. Local governments must justify any ordinances restricting restaurants from operating at less than 50 percent for economic or health reasons.

“And then if a local restricts between 50 and 100 [percent], they have to provide justification, and they have to identify what the costs of doing that are,” DeSantis added.

Restaurants won’t have to pay fines or face being shut down for violating local directives, such as mask requirements.

“All outstanding fines and penalties that have been applied against individuals are suspended,” DeSantis said.

“I think we need to get away from trying to penalize people for social distancing and just work with people constructively, put out what you want but to impose some type of penalty,” the governor added. “All these fines were going to hold in abeyance and hope that we can move forward in a way that’s more collaborative.”

The governor also voiced his continued support for having fans at NFL games this season in Florida, including the Super Bowl in Tampa.

“We’re going to be able to host the Super Bowl in February. We expect to do a full Super Bowl. We’re going to show that we’re going to be able to do that,” DeSantis adamantly said.

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