Commenting on Florida’s decision to completely reopen bars and restaurants despite the fact the state is still one of the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci said the Sunshine State could be “really asking for trouble.”
Despite thousands of new cases per day in the state and despite the fact Florida’s positive rate is still relatively high, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said he would fully reopen the state’s economy.
“Every business has the right to operate,” DeSantis said Sept. 25. “Some of the locals can do reasonable regulations. But you can’t just say no.”
As of Sept. 28, Florida had more than 700,000 positive COVID-19 tests, the third-most of any state in the U.S., and more than 14,000 deaths (the fifth-most). Still, DeSantis approved 100% indoor seating in restaurants, even though it’s clearly safer to be sitting outside while eating.
Fauci said he was alarmed with DeSantis’ decision to reopen Florida.
“Well, that is very concerning to me. I mean, we have always said that, myself and Dr. Deborah Birx, who is the coordinator of the task force, that that is something we really need to be careful about,” Fauci, the face of the Trump administration’s coronavirus response team, told Good Morning America. “When you’re dealing with community spread, and you have the kind of congregate setting where people get together, particularly without masks, you’re really asking for trouble.”
But not every restaurant is on board with a full-fledged reopening. Jimmy Flanigan, the CEO of a South Florida chain of sports bars, said he was startled when he walked into one of his restaurants and saw people packed inside to watch the Miami Heat in an NBA playoff game
“It was a little scary walking into a Flanigan’s after six months and seeing it full,” Flanigan told the Miami Herald. “It was too busy. So we backed off to 50%.”
DeSantis said local governments can create their own set of regulations as long as they say restaurants can maintain at least 50% capacity. But if a local government does mandate that a restaurant can’t be 100% open, it must justify those restrictions. DeSantis also said that bars can be open for 50% capacity, even if six feet of social distancing inside isn’t possible.
Unsurprisingly, many took advantage of the new regulations. As noted by the New York Post, “crowds packed into some Florida bars over the weekend” and “footage showed patrons overflowing out of the Elbo Room in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday after the governor’s surprise order.”
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