ORLANDO, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Wednesday that the majority of the state would take another step in his reopening plan and move to phase two during an address at Universal Orlando.
“Today as we take another step, we’re applying this to the 64 counties, and obviously going to work with the three southeast Florida counties, as we go forward,” DeSantis said. “This is going to be signed today, and it will take effect this Friday.”
Phase two excludes Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties out of the state’s total of 67 counties. DeSantis said he would work with the three southeast counties to bring them up to speed with phase two of reopening in time.
DeSantis said the major difference Floridians will see under phase two is their ability to dine out and seek entertainment will be expanded. Bars will also be allowed to open.
“In our phase two, we will be going with bars being able to operate consistent with this guidance diminished standing room occupancy so basically outdoor seating with social distance, a certain amount indoors, but you’re seated to get served. I mean ... go enjoy. Have a drink. It’s fine," DeSantis said. “We want to kind of not have huge crowds piling in.”
Under phase two, bars and pubs may operate at 50% capacity inside and full capacity outside for dine-in service.
Watch DeSantis’ announcement below:
The governor will also allow movie theaters and entertainment venues to open with 50% capacity.
“Movie theaters, and bowling alleys, they have a 50% capacity appropriate social distancing and sanitation protocols. Those have not been operating up to this point, you know they now have a pathway to do that,” DeSantis said.
Pari-mutual facilities, which typically house events like slots, racing wagers and cardrooms, will also be able to reopen with strict health and safety guidelines under phase two.
“South Florida would be interested in this and some other parts of the state that have these facilities," DeSantis said. “It’ll be similar to what the theme parks did we just want to make sure that there’s a plan and that that people are adhering to the the necessary safety protocols.”
The beginning of June marked about a month since the governor placed most of the state under “full phase one” of his reopening plan amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, many Floridians wondered when the governor would further relax closures allowing more residents to return to work.
“It was more than a month ago, about five weeks ago where I announced the safe, smart step by step plan for Florida's recovery,” DeSantis said. “And from the very beginning of March, our plan has been really five main points, protecting the vulnerable increased testing, promote social distancing, which you don't hear about as much anymore over the last week.”
It wouldn’t be until May 18 that the governor placed the entire state into phase one of reopening, citing three counties in South Florida that had reported cases and deaths related to COVID-19 in quantities much higher than the majority of the state.
“We started with phase one about a month ago but we only did the 64 counties, excluding the three large southeast Florida counties and the reason why we did that was those southeast Florida counties represented I think at that time about 60% of all the cases hospitalizations and fatalities, they still represent the bulk of those.”
The governor said that since the advent of phase one in the state, there has been a large increase in the number of COVID-19 tests being administered to Floridians.
On Wednesday, nearly an hour before the governor’s announcement, the Florida Department of Health reported 1,317 new cases of COVID-91 as well as 36 new deaths since approximately the same time Tuesday.
At the time of DeSantis’ announcement, the FDOH reported a total of 58,764 cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of March, as well as a total of 2,566 deaths due to the novel respiratory illness.
Since the beginning of March, 10,525 people have required hospitalization for severe cases of COVID-19.