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Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Phase Two reopening at Universal Studios.

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Ron DeSantis: Phase Two reopening starts Friday

Movie theaters, bars, casinos to reopen with limited capacity.

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Phase Two reopening in Florida amid the COVID-19 pandemic, reopening movie theaters, bars and casinos with limited capacity.

“Those have not been operating up to this point,” DeSantis said. “They now have a pathway to do that. and if you do the dispensing and sanitation, like some other states have done.”

At a press conference at Universal Studios in Orlando, DeSantis said most of Florida is ready to enter a second reopening phase amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The next step will only be in place for 64 counties, excluding Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.

The shift marks a chance to reopen bars, movie theaters and pari-mutuel betting facilities like those owned by the Seminole Tribe. For casinos, specific reopening plans must be submitted and approved by local government jurisdictions and the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation, similar to what’s expected of theme parks.

There will still be 50% occupancy limits at those locales, he said.

“We want to not have huge crowds piling in,” DeSantis said.

Bars and pubs will only be allowed to serve seated guests and social distancing should still be accommodated. Restaurants can now seat guests at bar tops.

Other newly opening businesses include tattoo parlors, acupuncture businesses, tanning salons and massage parlors, all of which must abide by Department of Health guidance.

As for facilities that have already been open like gyms will be able to reopen at full capacity, as long as there is appropriate social distancing and sanitization.

But a 50% cap remains on theaters, concert houses, auditoriums, playhouses, bowling alleys and arcades. The shift if phase also means restrictions on gatherings have been loosened and crowds of 50 or less are now allowed.

The Re-Open Florida Task Force recommended Guidelines for Phase Two.

The site of the press conference was notable. Universal Studios held a soft opening Wednesday. Employees were allowed to come into the park beginning Monday and invited guests could come Wednesday. The park will be opened to the public as of Friday, with limited park capacity, mask requirements and other measures in place.

“Thousands and thousands of employees have been put back to work and that wouldn’t be the case without your leadership,” Universal Parks & Resorts CEO Tom Williams said.

DeSantis said theme parks have put procedures like temperature checks in place that should be used by businesses as they move forward.

He continued to stress successes in Florida with limiting the spread of the coronavirus by focusing on at-risk populations. He continued to note Florida has seen no one age 18 or younger die from COVID-19 and that 85% of deaths have been patients over the age of 65.

DeSantis also noted Florida has seen cases contained outside three South Florida counties. The 15 million people living outside South Florida represent a population that would be the fifth largest state on their own.

DeSantis said he will sign an order authorizing Phase 2 on Wednesday for the 64 counties outside South Florida and implement Phase 2 as of Friday.

As for those remaining counties, he said they could submit plans to the state government for approval once local leaders feel the communities are ready.

 

Written By

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at jacobogles@hotmail.com.

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