Senate Democrats want businesses rolled back to 25% capacity
Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson and fellow caucus members criticized the Agency for Health Care Administration's decision to sign a new contract with Deloitte.

Audrey Gibson
Counties would need 5% positivity rates for 14 days to reopen.

Senate Democrats announced a plan Wednesday asking the Governor to limit businesses across the state to 25% capacity.

During Phase Two of Florida’s reopening process, Gov. Ron DeSantis allowed restaurants, bars, retail and other businesses to open up to 50% capacity before state business regulators reversed the order for bars. Under Phase One, restaurants and retail were allowed to operate up to 25% capacity.

But with the rising number of daily COVID-19 diagnoses, Senate Democratic Leader Audrey Gibson and members of her caucus criticized the state for opening too early and forcing counties to take the lead on certain orders. That created what the Leader called a “disjointed way of getting us to safety.”

“His hands-off approach is not working,” she said. “He’s losing the war against the pandemic, and that means the people of the state of Florida are losing the war against the pandemic.”

The 25% capacity requirement would stay in place until a county achieves a 5% positivity rate, county by county, for 14 days. On Tuesday, the statewide positivity rate was 13.6%.

Sen. Oscar Braynon, a former leader of the caucus, said the state’s COVID-19 data is showing a worsening pandemic as state officials reported a third day with more than 100 fatalities associated with the virus. Tuesday’s report set the record for daily death confirmations, including one non-resident.

That comes as the median age of newly confirmed cases is on the rise, suggesting a larger share of older Floridians are now testing positive.

Braynon warned that without a cautious rollback of the economic reopening, the state will need another broader closure to stop the spread of the virus.

“The people of Florida don’t want that. The people of Florida can’t handle that,” Braynon said. “But if we don’t take the necessary actions right now, to step back, to let bars remain closed, go back to the 25 percent occupancy rules, (if) we don’t go back right now, it’s only going to get worse,” the Miami Gardens Senator said.

“You have to sacrifice a little bit now so that you don’t end up hurting yourself in the future. That’s what apparently our Governor doesn’t understand.”

Democrats also hit DeSantis on the state’s plan to reopen schools, with Sen. Janet Cruz calling it an afterthought to the plans to reopen bars and the rest of the economy. And she lambasted the Governor’s plan as fit for “impala on the African plains.”

“Start taking care of people, and start paying attention that it is not OK to move forward quietly thinking that herd immunity will take care of our state,” Cruz said, slamming her desk. “It is not OK to deem my 87-year-old mother as collateral damage if she dies because she contracts this virus.”

Instead of forcing schools to reopen campuses, Democrats said the state should ensure all students have computers and internet access. In addition, they said each county should delay reopening classrooms until the local coronavirus test-positivity rate is 5% or less for 14 consecutive days.

Previous requests by Democrats to the Governor’s Office have gone unanswered, including a statewide mask mandate. But Democrats nevertheless advocated for more leadership from the state’s elected leader.

A patchwork of regulations don’t work, Sen. Perry Thurson noted, because people can travel to open beaches or restaurants in another county, catch the virus, and bring it back to their hometown. Braynon extended it further, comparing that scenario to New Yorkers fleeing for Florida during the lockdown there, which DeSantis derided and used to implement a New York quarantine order.

“Why would we not understand that concept for 30, 40 miles when we talk about it and used it as an excuse — I mean was indignant about the excuse and accused Governor (Andrew) Cuomo of basically sabotaging our state,” Braynon said. “And he was that fiery about it, and now all of sudden we have amnesia and forget the concept and say, no, we can only close county by county. I think it’s hypocrisy at least, and at its worst, negligent.”

Asked if there might be a need for changes, DeSantis told reporters later Wednesday at the Capitol that most people are following health guidelines.

“When we were going through this in March and April, a lot of folks were focused on what is being restricted or shut down or all that,” DeSantis said. “I think if you look at it, most of the behavior was changing before a lot of that was happening. And I think what we’ve seen recently, as the cases have become more of a center-stage issue again, is we’re seeing changes in mobility data. We’re seeing people do the social distancing. We’re seeing folks who are vulnerable making the extra effort. And I think, ultimately, that is what’s going to do it for us.”


The News Service of Florida contributed to this post.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


  • Sonja Fitch

    July 15, 2020 at 4:22 pm

    For the sake of our children,shut it down duffus Desantis! Give our children the opportunity to transition back to schools!

  • martin

    July 15, 2020 at 5:05 pm

    sorry but I can’t agree with this. Let the dems accept only 25% of their pay and donate the other 75% to a charity and I might agree.

  • jon

    July 17, 2020 at 5:49 pm

    Well of course the retards do! Anything to trash the economy more to reflect badly on TRUMP and reduce his re-election chances! They can go to HELL!

Comments are closed.


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