Florida Governor Lifts State's Coronavirus Restrictions on Businesses, Mask Fines Suspended
During a press conference on Friday, the Republican governor, 42, acknowledged that the pandemic is far from over but claimed that the threat of COVID-19 has decreased and the need to reopen the state's businesses has increased.
DeSantis announced an executive order allowing all businesses — including restaurants and bars — in the Sunshine State to operate at 100 percent capacity. Until now, restaurants and bars in Florida could serve customers indoors at 50 percent occupancy.
In addition to lifting health restrictions on businesses, DeSantis said he is banning cities and counties from fining people who do not wear face masks or do not adhere to social distancing guidelines.
During the press conference, DeSantis also said that he wants the state to fully reopen with "limited social distancing protocols."
"We're also saying in the state of Florida, everybody has the opportunity and the right to work," he added. "Every business has the right to operate."
DeSantis also noted that moving to phrase 3 of reopening would help the state's recovery efforts economically and said that he has seen no signs of a possible "second wave."
"If we see an increase, we're not closing anything going forward," DeSantis said, before adding that hospitals are prepared to handle a potential surge and the state is ready to respond if one emerges.
Many critics are against DeSantis' new order, including CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who said that America is "nowhere near containment."
"These are all the wrong sort of decisions as far as actually trying to bring this pandemic under control," Gupta said, according to Fox News.
In response, DeSantis said that lifting the restrictions would be good for businesses and customers alike. "We have to have a situation where individuals can make decisions about what makes sense for them," the governor said, according to the outlet. "If it's something you are not comfortable doing, nobody will force you to do it. But I think people need to be free to choose."
According to data from Johns Hopkins University, Florida has long been a COVID-19 hotspot, with nearly 700,000 people infected by the virus since the pandemic began earlier this year.
The state has a 13.37 percent testing positivity rate and there have been a total of 13,915 deaths as of Saturday afternoon.