Gov. DeSantis directs COVID-19 Phase 2 reopening provisions

MOVIE THEATERS and other Florida entertainment businesses have been allowed to reopen at 50 percent capacity through an executive order taking effect on June 5.

By DOTTY NIST

The reopening of bars and pubs at 50-percent capacity, and full capacity outdoors, along with reopening of movie theaters and other entertainment businesses at 50 percent capacity, were allowed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s Executive Order (EO) 2020-139.

Along with movie theaters, entertainment businesses mentioned in the order include concert houses, auditoriums, playhouses, bowling alleys, and arcades. These businesses will be required to observe social distancing and follow sanitation procedures.

The new executive order allows restaurants to resume bar-type seating with social distancing. (Phase 1 had provided for restaurants to reopen at 50 percent capacity inside and full capacity outdoors with no bar seating. The 50 percent capacity limit remains in place.)

These were among the provisions of EO 2020-139, which took effect on June 5.

EO 2020-139 extended Gov. DeSantis’s original May 1 executive order initiating portions of Phase 1 COVID-19 recovery, as amended by several other EOs taking effect after that date. The new order marks the entrance of almost all Florida counties into Phase 2 recovery, the exceptions being Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties.

EO 2020-139 provides for retail business to resume operation at full capacity with observance of social distancing and sanitization. The new order allows personal services, among those tanning and massage businesses, tattoo and body piercing businesses, and acupuncturists, to resume operation with no percentage capacity limit—but with requirements for social distancing, sanitation protocols, and Florida Department of Health (FDOH) guidance.

Race tracks and other pari-mutuel facilities, where permitted, may now seek authorization to operate with submittal of a written request from the county in which they are located to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

EO 2020-139 extends two previous executive orders related to travel to Florida, EO 2020-80 and EO 2020-82. The former had directed all persons (with certain exceptions) departing from any area with “substantial community spread” of COVID-19 and entering Florida through airports to isolate/quarantine for 14 days or while in Florida, if not staying for 14 days. EO 2020-80 had indicated that the areas in question consisted of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut (the New York Tri-State area).

EO 2020-82, the second extended order, applied the same requirements for everyone (with certain exceptions) entering Florida, not just through airports but also by road, coming from substantial community spread areas, described as the New York Tri-State area.

Exemptions from the restrictions of these two extended EOs include “persons involved in commercial activity” and students traveling in connection with their studies or programs or activities approved by their educational institution.

EO 2020-139 was stated to supersede another earlier order related to travel to Florida EO 2020-86. This negated restrictions contained in EO 2020-86 on travel to Florida by people from Louisiana, who are now no longer required to isolate/quarantine upon entering Florida.

The new order extends through June 30 COVID-19-related measures applying to local governments. These had provided for suspension of quorum requirements for local government bodies and requirements for their meeting to take place in a specific public location. They also allowed use by these bodies of communications media technology, including video and telephonic conferencing.

Gov. DeSantis encourages “all persons in Florida” to continue to follow U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) protocols for social distancing and safety, as appropriate. All persons continue to be encouraged to avoid gathering in groups of more than 50 people. Senior citizens and people with underlying medical conditions are “strongly encouraged” to follow measures to limit their risk of exposure to COVID-19, including avoiding crowds.

Other “responsible individual activity” recommendations include testing of long-term care facility employees “on a routine basis,” and use of social distancing and sanitation protocols at in-store retail businesses.

Another recent executive order by Gov. DeSantis, EO 2020-137, has extended for the second time, through July 1, an earlier order temporarily suspending any statute under Florida law providing for mortgage foreclosure, along with any statute providing for eviction under Florida law as related to non-payment of rent by residential tenants due to the COVID-19 emergency.

Gov. DeSantis’s executive orders related to COVID-19 may be viewed online at: https://www.flgov.com/2020-executive-orders/