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The Uncertainty of Phase Three in South Florida’s Tri-County Area


Last week, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that Florida would be entering Phase 3 in reopening the state after determining that Florida was ready to move past Phase 2 based on the continuing a “downward trend in new COVID-19 cases while maintaining adequate health-care capacity.” DeSantis says the new order will override any other restrictions on the local level. So, what does it all mean?

Here’s a quick list of what the Phase 3 order changes:

  • Restaurants, bars and nightclubs that derive more than 50% of sales from alcohol can operate at full capacity. Plastic menus should be cleaned after each use.
  • Gyms and fitness centers can open at full capacity
  • Other businesses that can reopen with limited social distancing; movie theaters, concert halls, auditoriums, bowling alleys, arcades, playhouses and casinos)
  • Businesses should continue to encourage employees to work remotely but should begin implementing plans for them to return to work.
  • Employees can resume non-essential travel and adhere to CDC guidelines regarding isolation following travel
  • Local governments can resume in-person meetings
  • State parks can fully reopen, including for overnight stays, public beaches can fully reopen
  • Large sporting events can resume, but limited capacity is recommended
  • Theme parks can return to normal operations with limited social distancing protocols.
  • Vacation rentals can reopen, but owners should continue disinfecting
  • Business such as salons, barber shops and nail salons should maintain sanitation practices between customer visits and remove frequent-touch items such as magazines, newspapers and service menus.
  • Businesses can still require customers to wear masks, but DeSantis said “all outstanding fines and penalties that have been applied against individuals are suspended.”
  • The order still calls for older residents and vulnerable populations with underlying medical conditions to heed caution and avoid large crowds while practicing social distancing.

The order also maintains that individuals should continue social distancing and minimize time spent in large crowds, and that businesses should practice adequate sanitation practices to prevent the spread.

But here’s where it gets confusing: Palm Beach County officials still believe they can force businesses to comply with county rules requiring masks. Jon Van Arnam, Palm Beach’s Deputy County Administrator in an email requesting guidance on the county’s power per the Governor’s new EO, argued that because the PBC had not issued any fines to date and instead has focused on obligations of businesses under the order, the order is still enforceable, although no individual can be fined for violating it. As of now, the tri-county area, Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties, has yet to adhere to certain aspects of the order, most noticeably not reopening bars. But given the fact that individuals’ fines are now null and no new fines will be issued, it remains to be seen if people will actually comply with the mask mandate – no matter what county they’re in.

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