On Friday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis lifted all restrictions on restaurants, bars and other businesses despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in the state. According to a report by CBS News Miami, DeSantis also promised to stop county and local governments from enforcing face mask ordinances. Public health experts warn that DeSantis is moving too fast and that his decisions are not based on science.
"We are today moving into initially called phase three. What that will mean for the restaurants, there will not be limitations," DeSantis said on Friday. Other government officials all over Florida and around the country were shocked by DeSantis' move, and public health experts condemned it as irresponsible. DeSantis went on: "If we see an increase, we're not closing anything going forward, but I think if you look at our hospital capacity, if you look at what we did to marshal the latest medications, if you look at what we've done to help with all the PPE and the testing and everything, you know, we have the tools in place that we need."
The state of Florida has lost almost 14,000 people to COVID-19, with an average of over 100 deaths per day since mid-July. Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber speculated that DeSantis is trying to appease President Donald Trump, not protect his citizens. He said: "My county has had the second most number of COVID infections in the country. So, we are a hot spot. The truth is, this is pretty obvious this was a political decision."
As for arguments that reopening is worth the risk for the sake of the economy, the Florida Chapter of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group said that it would not work that way. They said: "Some of the top economists across the country have told Gov. DeSantis in no uncertain terms that the economy will not recover until he gets the virus under control. Yet, the governor is preventing potentially life-saving restrictions while COVID-19 cases are still well above the levels that health professionals deem safe for reopening. Prohibiting restrictions, especially in high-risk settings for spreading the virus-like indoor dining, will prolong economic damage and risk lives unnecessarily."
Florida Rep. Donna Shalala said: "[DeSantis is] just not paying attention to the science. His advisers are not scientists. He's putting the people of Florida at risk." FIU Infectious Disease Expert Dr. Aileen Marty added: "It's not based on science. It's the kind of politics that going to backfire."
Other public officials responded with similar concerned, while business owners questioned whether they would truly get their customers back thanks to these easing restrictions. Under the new rules, all public spaces can open at 50 percent capacity. County and local governments can still make their own rules, but without state approval, cannot enforce them. However, businesses still have the right to require customers to wear masks and social distance inside.