Florida has suspended the drinking of alcohol at bars, officials announced Friday, as the state scrambles to slow the spread of COVID-19 amid a record-breaking spike in cases. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered the bar shutdown after the state health department reported 8,942 new positive COVID-19 tests, shattering the state's previous record of 5,508 set two days ago.
Effectively immediately, all businesses deriving more than 50 percent of their revenue from alcohol sales are required to stop selling alcohol to customers on site, according to an emergency order issued by the Department of Business & Professional Regulation. Bars will still be permitted to sell alcohol in to-go containers, and restaurants that do not make a majority of their revenue from alcohol can continue to serve seated customers on location.
"We're seeing really, really big positive test results from our younger, less risky demographic in terms of the effects of this, but a lot of asymptomatic carriers and asymptomatic transmitters, and I think that's what the concern is, for our vulnerable population, that it seeps into some of those folks who are more vulnerable to the virus," Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a Friday afternoon press conference.
In a statement that same day, DBPR Secretary Halsey Beshears said the order was made as COVID-19 cases spike following the state's reopening. "Based on recent increases in COVID-19 cases and non-compliance with previous orders, (the department) has taken action to suspend on-premises alcohol sales at bars," Beshears said, as per the Tampa Bay Times. "(The department) believes this is a necessary step to take to protect public health as we continue working in partnership with industry and health officials to combat COVID-19."
DeSantis previously championed Florida's response to COVID-19, saying in April while on a visit with President Donald Trump at the White House, "Everyone in the media was saying Florida would be like New York or Italy and that has not happened. We had a tailored and measured approach that not only helped our numbers be way below what anybody predicted, but also did less damage to our state going forward."
Florida is not the only southern state that has walked back its reopening plan due to a resurgence of the virus. Friday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott also announced bars would be shut down after more than 17,000 new cases were confirmed in the last three days. "We want this to be as limited in duration as possible. However, we can only slow the spread if everyone in Texas does their part," he said in his announcement. "Every Texan has a responsibility to themselves and their loved ones to wear a mask, wash their hands, stay six feet apart from others in public, and stay home if they can."