In face of White House Task Force advice, Ron DeSantis says Florida restaurants will stay open
Image via Facebook Live/Governor Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis Okeechobee Steakhouse
Restaurants have been fully open since September.

Despite facing pressure this month to take a step back on Florida’s pandemic reopening timeline, Gov. Ron DeSantis reassured restaurants Tuesday that he won’t shut them down.

On Sunday, news broke that a White House Coronavirus Task Force report for Florida recommended stricter measures for stopping the virus including mask wearing at all times in public, increased physical distancing by reducing capacity or closing indoor spaces at restaurants and bars and limiting gatherings outside of immediate households. States like California are reimposing restrictions in the face of rising cases, but Florida has waitresses, cooks and family-0wned businesses covered, the Governor said.

“We just want to send the message, some may want to shut you down, we want to pull you up,” he said during a press conference with several restaurant industry workers.

“You’re working folks who are working hard to make a living, and you can take it to the bank in the state of Florida, you’re going to have that right defended by the Governor.”

Since September, Florida has been in reopening Phase Three, which allows all businesses to open. The order lifted all COVID-19 state-level restrictions and preempted local governments’ abilities to close businesses and assess fines on individuals.

“If a local leader wants to put them out of work, you’re damned right I’m hobbling them from doing that,” DeSantis said Tuesday. “If they want to shut down businesses, I’m going to stand in the way. I’m going to stand with these folks here because they have a right to make a living and I don’t think government has a right to put these people out of work and not let them put food on the table for their family.”

Businesses put every effort into protecting customers and their staff, the Governor noted, or guests won’t visit.

“I have not seen a single business owner — I have not seen a single employee who has acted like this virus isn’t real,” he said. “They all understand that, but they also understand that they have to be able to make ends meet.”

State health officials reported 9,411 new cases and 94 deaths in Tuesday’s pandemic update. And with the holiday season, experts expect cases to go on the rise again.

“The vast, vast majority of infections are occurring in people’s homes, particularly if you have people getting together,” DeSantis said. “Closing a restaurant for indoor dining is going to lead to more people doing that in private homes anyways.”

Instead, government should inform people about situations with higher risk and let individuals make their own decisions. Mandates and shutdowns haven’t worked for other states, he noted.

Florida is among 10 states with the lowest new infections per capita, according to the task force report.

“If the mandate was so important, Florida would be higher than all of those states,” DeSantis said.

“Rankings are almost irrelevant as the entire country is surging,” the task force report said.

The Dec. 6 report obtained by the Center for Public Integrity also urged leaders to begin warning about the risks of gathering during the December holiday season.

The White House Coronavirus Task Force is chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, and Dr. Deborah Birx serves as its response coordinator. The task force’s reports are sent to governors across the U.S.

Last week, the Orlando Sentinel and the South Florida Sun Sentinel, based in Palm Beach County, sued DeSantis’ administration for failing to make public the weekly reports about coronavirus conditions in the Sunshine State. The Governor held his Tuesday press conference at Okeechobee Steakhouse in West Palm Beach.

The lawsuit said the DeSantis administration is violating the Public Records Act by refusing to release the reports, which provide recommendations and snapshots of virus conditions state by state. The lawsuit filed last week in state court in Tallahassee seeks the immediate release of requested and future reports.

“The state has given us no explanation as to why this crucial health information should be withheld,” said Julie Anderson, the editor in chief of the Orlando Sentinel and the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “We had no choice but to ask a court to intervene to uphold the public records law.”

The White House has indicated these reports should be “widely” shared, including with the media, according to the newspapers’ lawsuit, as reported by The Associated Press.

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

    December 16, 2020 at 5:06 am

    We in Florida are going to be “living” with Duffus Desantis continuing to willingly slaughtering Floridians! Looks like Nazi Rick and Duffus Desantis are competing for “King Killer of Floridians and Americans “! Resign Desantis! Go to hell Nazi Rick ! Damn we are going to be ground zero for the goptrump death cult! Palm Beach County , No one is above the law! Especially Trump! Do not let him have a permanent residence in Palm Beach County !

  • rob

    December 16, 2020 at 8:57 am


  • tjb

    December 16, 2020 at 9:22 am

    We have lost 20,000 Floridians to COVID-19. How many of these souls have lost their lives because of DeSantis. Even on simple preventive measures such as wearing a mask … he will not endorse policies that will save lives. Why won’t DeSantis follow WH Task Force guidelines to protect the lives of our citizens?

  • vicky

    December 17, 2020 at 5:17 am

    What will happen when Florida’s hospitals are overwhelmed and there aren’t enough health care workers?

  • John Blanco

    December 17, 2020 at 9:45 am

    Ron DeSantis is the Brightest and the Best Governor in the USA. We are living in Florida because of him and if you don’t approve you can move to another state like California. He stands for our U.S. & State Constitutional Rights which can never be suspended for any reason, especially a virus which is not a death sentence. Covid 19 has a 99.7% survival rate for most people. The Fearful and most vulnerable can wear their masks and stay home if they want to but leave the majority of we Healthy Americans alone, keep your hysteria to yourselves. And thank you Governor Desantis for not mandating the next vaccine, thereby continuing voluntary compliance and upholding our Medical Rights of Informed Consent.

  • Eric Grant

    December 18, 2020 at 11:50 am

    The RECKLESS and CRIMINAL policies of Ron Desantis, will mean DEATH
    to 10’s of thousands of Florida residents. Make no mistake, the governor’s
    policies are CRIMINAL…. Manipulated Covid-19 data by Florida DOH (under the
    Governor’s direction) has set us up for a tsunami of sickness and death…
    21,000 Dead in Florida will pale in comparison to how this story is gonna end..

  • john

    December 18, 2020 at 3:20 pm

    Covid 19 has a 99.97% survival rate not at all a big deal unless you are already dieing from a heart attack, cancer, diabetes, or some other chronic condition. A tiny few are actually dieing from cod 19 itself. All the data put out by the news and the CDC is grossly misleading and overstated to creat fear and hysteria in the public square. We will not be taking the covid 19 vaccine and will gladly prefer available alternative therapies if we ever catch the virus. MY Body MY Choice; The US Costitution!!!

  • Sonja Fitch

    December 19, 2020 at 7:18 am

    My body My choice ! Lol lol lol. Where has that been heard before? Lol lol. Men and THEIR choices! How pathetic! Lol lol
    Til you wear a tampon on your eat NO CHOICES! Lol lol

  • Ocean Joe

    December 20, 2020 at 2:03 pm

    Always good to see the “strict constructionists” come out of the woodwork to endorse reckless behavior that threatens the health of others.

    If you are in poor health, it must be nice to know you are considered disposable by the Republican party. Precautions are for the soy boys and snowflakes. The fat, beer swilling, incel, gun-totin Proud Boys ain’t gonna wear no masks, just like tough guy Donald Trump. He’s tough till he loses an election and runs out of hair spray.

Comments are closed.


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