Florida Lifts Covid Restrictions on Bars and Restaurants, While Prohibiting Local Mask Penalties

 In SLED, COVID-19, Local

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an exec­u­tive order Friday allow­ing restau­rants and bars to open at full capac­i­ty and pro­hibit­ing local gov­ern­ments from col­lect­ing fines relat­ed to coro­n­avirus man­dates, includ­ing require­ments that res­i­dents wear masks. The order, which DeSantis said moves the state into phase three of its reopen­ing plan, also pre­vents local gov­ern­ments from clos­ing busi­ness­es for public health rea­sons. “We’re aso saying in the state of Florida every­body has a right to work,” DeSantis said at a press con­fer­ence. Local gov­ern­ments “can do rea­son­able reg­u­la­tions, but they can’t just say no.” Under the terms of the order, local gov­ern­ments can still reg­u­late busi­ness oper­a­tions, but can’t close them out­right due to con­cerns about the coro­n­avirus. Any restric­tions put in place must have eco­nom­ic and health jus­ti­fi­ca­tions. After the governor’s announce­ment, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said bars and night­clubs can open up, but the county wants to main­tain its mask require­ments inside estab­lish­ments. It will, how­ev­er, stop issu­ing cita­tions. DeSantis’ exec­u­tive order will require the county to jus­ti­fy keep­ing restau­rant capac­i­ty at 50%, which the Miami Herald report­ed many expect­ed Gimenez to try to do. Hours after DeSantis’ order, Broward County issued its own saying bars have to comply with capac­i­ty restric­tions. Some local lead­ers com­plained they didn’t see DeSantis’ order as backed by sci­en­tif­ic guid­ance. “This is a polit­i­cal deci­sion, clear­ly not inspired by an instinct to pro­tect our res­i­dents or our econ­o­my. Preventing us from enforc­ing rules requir­ing mask usage is sense­less and will only get more people sick,” Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said. Meanwhile, state edu­ca­tion offi­cials told school super­in­ten­dents in Miami-Dade and Broward coun­ties that they need to move up plans to open in-person school.  [Orlando Sentinel; Miami Herald; NBC Miami; Local 10]

A BEAR OF A PROBLEM | A poor berry crop and a lack­lus­ter year for salmon runs in Alaska have left bears there des­per­ate to fatten them­selves ahead of hiber­na­tion, forc­ing the ani­mals to scour garbage cans in Juneau for ade­quate nutri­tion. The prob­lem is wors­ened by this year’s “bumper crop” of young bears — the result of last year’s suc­cess­ful berry crop and salmon runs— leav­ing more ani­mals to com­pete for a small­er amount of avail­able food. Most of those bears are newly inde­pen­dent but still inex­pe­ri­enced enough to wander into busy areas occu­pied by humans, accord­ing to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. So far this year, offi­cials have respond­ed to at least 687 bear-relat­ed calls, double the amount at the same point last year. [KTOO Public Media]

VACCINE PRIORITIZATION | Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said Thursday that res­i­dents and staff mem­bers at nurs­ing homes and assist­ed living facil­i­ties would be pri­or­i­tized for the first round of Covid-19 vac­ci­na­tions, along with health-care work­ers, essen­tial employ­ees, edu­ca­tors and public safety offi­cials. Those pri­or­i­ty can­di­dates are among the most vul­ner­a­ble to con­tract­ing Covid-19, Hogan said. The gov­er­nor out­lined the state’s early plan for vac­cine dis­tri­b­u­tion during sched­uled remarks at Novavax Inc., a phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­ny with a Covid-19 vac­cine can­di­date in the second phase of devel­op­ment. The fed­er­al gov­ern­ment will ulti­mate­ly decide the pri­or­i­ti­za­tion of vac­cine dis­tri­b­u­tion, but Maryland’s plan adheres to a framework from the Johns Hopkins Center that includes health-care work­ers and older adults among those who might qual­i­fy for the first doses. [The Baltimore Sun]

OKLAHOMA RESERVATIONS | This summer’s Supreme Court deci­sion uphold­ing the United States’ treaties with the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, and there­fore the tribe’s reser­va­tion, could lead to the recog­ni­tion of four reser­va­tions of other tribes in Oklahoma. Experts said by the end of the year court cases could estab­lish the reser­va­tions of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Seminole Nations still exist. [The Oklahoman]

AL FRESCO, FOREVER | Restaurants in New York City can oper­ate side­walk and curb­side dining areas indef­i­nite­ly, and the city will con­tin­ue to des­ig­nate mul­ti­ple blocks as pedes­tri­an zones to increase foot traf­fic to busi­ness­es, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday. The pro­gram, which helped restau­rants stay open during the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic, was orig­i­nal­ly set to expire at the end of October. Under the new rules, restau­rants will be able to expand their out­door seat­ing areas in front of adja­cent busi­ness­es if the owners and ten­ants agree. Restaurants that con­tin­ue serv­ing out­doors in the winter will have to keep those spaces open enough to allow ade­quate air­flow. If the space is com­plete­ly enclosed, dining areas must adhere to the same seat­ing restric­tions as indoor facil­i­ties, which are per­mit­ted to reopen at 25% capac­i­ty next week. De Blasio said the pro­gram will be “an impor­tant part of how we recov­er as a city” from the pan­dem­ic. [Eater NY]

Route Fifty man­ag­ing editor Laura Maggi con­tributed to this roundup.

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