Gyms to reopen and service to expand in restaurants and shops Monday under new COVID rules

Florida is extending the "reopening" of Florida by allowing gyms to open, with social distancing and other measures. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Florida on Monday will move into “full Phase 1” of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ plan to gradually reopen the economy, in which retail stores and restaurants may operate at half capacity, gyms will reopen, and perhaps professional sports teams will be allowed to open training.

“Some of the things that we could have done but didn’t do initially we’re now adding. And I think this is appropriate, given the progress Florida that has made,” the governor said during a news conference in Jacksonville.

DeSantis imposed a stay-home order in early April to contain COVID-19 but began lifting restrictions on businesses in early May in all but Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach counties. He recently began lifting restrictions in Palm Beach and on Thursday announced that Broward and Miami-Dade would follow suit on Monday.

How much the development will contribute to a revived economy is unclear, given the enthusiasm with which Floridians have embraced social distancing. Some residents will support the expansions while others will remain cautious.

As of 11 a.m., public health officials reported 44,138 Florida cases and 1,917 deaths from COVID-19.

In any event, the administration is continuing to urge high-risk individuals — chiefly the elderly and people with underlying medical conditions — to continue sheltering in their homes.

Under the new rules that will take effect statewide, restaurants, shops, museums, and libraries will be allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity — up from 25 percent under the initial Phase 1 regulations. Restaurateurs will have to space tables appropriately or install barriers.

Gyms and fitness centers will be allowed to operate at 50 percent of building occupancy providing they enforce social distancing and take measures to sanitize equipment between users.

The governor invited professional sports teams to begin training and even league play in Florida, although likely without fans in attendance.

“I know the NBA, some of these places are thinking about getting back in. Go ahead and train. No problem. And then, once the season starts, you’re going to be able to use our venues,” he said.

And, in a step toward reopening amusement parks that traditionally have served as a major tourism draw, the parks will be allowed to submit plans for operating while avoiding transmission of the novel coronavirus.

Bars, however, are still a no-no. DeSantis indicated he was open to allowing vacation rentals again, if local governments submit safety plans that must include barriers to rentals from people fleeing hot spots, including the New York City region.

Michael Moline
Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal. He began his career covering the Florida Capitol for United Press International. More recently, he wrote for Florida Politics.