BY: ERIN SCHUMAKER, ABC NEWS
(MIAMI) — Florida residents will no longer be fined for not wearing face masks and COVID-19 restrictions on all businesses in the state, including restaurants and bars, have been lifted in an effort to help the state’s economy, according to Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“Every business has the right to operate,” DeSantis said at news conference Friday. “Some of the locals can do reasonable regulations. But you can’t just say no.”
Local governments can put their own restrictions in place as long as they don’t limit restaurant seating to less than 50% occupancy. Local officials will be required to justify restrictions that limit a restaurant’s occupancy to less than 100% capacity.
Florida logged nearly 2,000 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday and the state’s total number of cases tops 700,000.
In addition to infections, at least 14,037 residents have died of the virus, according to the state health department.
A report released by the state health department Monday found that the state’s positivity rate ranged from 5.33% to 7.54% over the past two weeks, which is higher than the threshold recommended by health experts.
A high positivity rate can be a sign that a state is only testing its sickest patients and failing to cast a net wide enough to accurately capture community transmission, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The World Health Organization recommends that governments get their positivity testing threshold below 5%.
Despite the state’s fluctuating positivity rate, DeSantis has said Florida plans to move forward with hosting “a full Super Bowl” in Tampa in February.
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