ORLANDO, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday said he doesn’t think the closure of restaurants has proven to be effective in reducing the spread of the coronavirus, so he said he’s going to lift capacity limits and ban local governments from putting any restrictions back in place.
“I don’t think the closure of restaurants has proven to be effective. I get at how you could potentially have spread there, but I also have to look at that. They’ve been able to use outdoors, but we can’t have these businesses dying, so they’re not going to be able to be closed by locals anymore and they will to be able to operate at the capacity that they’re comfortable with. So that’s going to happen,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis met with a panel of medical experts, making his opinion clear when it comes to restaurants in Florida, but didn’t specify when those capacity limits will be lifted. The executive order that’s in effect now still has restaurants operating at 50% capacity.
DeSantis said the decision to lift capacity limits was evidence-based.
“We had an ‘A-B test.’ Miami-Dade closed them at the height when everyone was panicking at the beginning of July, Broward didn’t. Broward kept indoor dining. I challenge you to show me the difference in those epidemic curves. In fact, I think Broward went down. They’re both dense counties, they both had significant epidemics, so I don’t think the closure of restaurants has proven to be effective,” DeSantis said.
The governor said the change, including a block on additional local restrictions, will give the businesses some assurances.
“We’ve worked great with locals, and I understand different problems and we’ve given them a lot of latitude to do things that I personally wouldn’t have done, but I think that’s the way to do it, bottom up. At the same time, I think everyone has the right to work. I think everyone in Florida has the right to operate a business. Now, there can be reasonable regulations on a local level, but to say ‘no’ at this point on a local perspective, I don’t think that’s viable,” DeSantis said.
The roundtable went on for two hours with scientists and doctors suggesting the focus, now, needs to be on protecting the elderly who are more vulnerable to the virus.
The governor also mentioned that he’s fine with theme parks raising their capacity as well. It’s just not clear when that could happen.