After a spike in cases which saw it become the new epicenter for COVID-19 outbreaks in June and July, the state of Florida has seen a decline in new cases in recent weeks, allowing it to resume its stages of reopening. However, after the state officially entered Phase 3, Governor Ron DeSantis made it very clear that he would not consider shutting things down in the state again.
According to local station KABC-7, the Governor lifted all restrictions on restaurants and businesses in the state on Friday in an effort to reopen the state’s economy. The announcement allows restaurants across the state to reopen at full capacity—but also prevents local municipalities from ordering businesses to close down or operate at half-capacity. Local governments can limit bars to 50% capacity, but he said he wouldn’t interfere with any attempts to reopen them fully.
“We’re not closing anything going forward,” he said.
In addition to insisting that the state would be able to handle any new influx of infections from his decision, DeSantis also banned local municipalities in the state from fining those who refused to wear masks or who violated social distancing rules, stating that there had to now be a better way to get people to do what was right without penalizing them.
“I think we need to get away from trying to penalize people for not social distancing and work with people constructively,” he said,
That part of his decision comes just over a week after a group of protestors went into a Target store in the state to protest mask mandates, playing music and marching through the store without masks and shouting at others to take their off as well.
The news of DeSantis’ decision has left some on edge, as the state has had some of the worst numbers when it comes to confirmed cases of the virus. According to data compiled by the CDC, Florida has had 684,847 confirmed cases of the virus total, with 18,340 new ones confirmed in the last week. It is surpassed in the number of total cases only by Texas, at 723,919, and California, at 790,640, with 45,100 and 24,439 new cases in the last week respectively.
However, because both of those states have larger populations than Florida, the transmission rate is deemed as slightly lower in each. California has an average of 1,999 cases per 100,000 residents and Texas has an average of 2,52 cases per 100,000 people. Florida, by comparison, averages 3,215 cases per 100,000 people.
Only Mississippi and Louisiana rank higher with those numbers, averaging 3,216 cases per 100,000 people and 3,529 cases per 100,000 people respectively.