TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis announced all bars and nightclubs in Florida will close for 30 days, effective as of 5 p.m. Tuesday, due to concerns over the coronavirus.
It was not immediately clear if bars and nightclubs would have to shutter completely or if they will be allowed to serve food to patrons.
“We are going to encourage people to take advantage of takeout and delivery services,” DeSantis said. “We are also going to be requiring restaurants screen all employees and prohibit entry for employees that may have a positive response to all the trigger questions.”
The governor also announced that restaurants must limit their number of patrons to maintain safe distances between diners. Under the governor’s order, restaurants can only operate at half capacity.
“We don’t want large crowds congregating right now. We want enough isolation so that the virus has more difficulty spreading throughout the community,” DeSantis said at a Tuesday morning news conference at the Capitol.
Just minutes earlier, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer announced bars and restaurants in the city would be banned from selling alcoholic beverages on premises until March 31. Dyer said this ban would not affect liquor stores.
It is unclear how the two announcements will affect each other.
DeSantis had mostly refrained from issuing mandates and allowed localities to use their own judgment on how to limit public activities. He acted more decisively only after President Donald Trump issued stricter guidelines on Monday.
The governor said his order does not preclude the hardest-hit communities from taking more actions.
Even before the governor’s announcement, Hillsborough County, which includes Tampa, announced Tuesday that it would immediately order restaurants to reduce maximum by 50% and close by 10 p.m.
In addition, the governor announced four students at the University of Florida have tested positive for coronavirus and an additional COVID-19 related death in Broward County.
“We also had a death associated with an assisted living facility in Broward County,” DeSantis said. “The 77-year-old male, he had significant underlying health issues.”
Later in the day, Florida’s state university system Board of Governors instructed state universities to move all courses to online-learning only for the rest of the spring semester.
DeSantis also touched upon the Centers for Disease Control’s new recommendations for social gatherings at beaches.
“You have to have distance apart if you are going to be out there,” DeSantis said. “Different localities are going to make decisions.”
Key West shut down three tourist attractions to the public — Southernmost Point, Smathers Beach and the sunset celebration at Mallory Square.
Many beaches in Florida, including Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale Beach and Hollywood Beach, have closed to spring break crowds. But some stayed open: Beaches in Brevard County and on Florida’s Gulf Coast, were packed with spring breakers Monday afternoon.
The governor confirmed Florida now has 192 cases of coronavirus, 173 of those cases are from state residents.
“We know the people who are the most vulnerable, we have done a lot to try to help with that, the younger folks are going to be key to that, we hope this will reduce gathering in large numbers, we are trying to heed the president’s call,” DeSantis said.
The governor declined to to take questions at his news conference, and other State officials could not immediately elaborate on how the closures would be enforced, including any penalties for bars and clubs ignoring the order.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.