Florida Holds Its Breath as It Reopens Its Bars, Gyms and Restaurants Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

People use the treadmills and other equipment at Optimum Gym in Tampa on Monday, May 18, the first day it was back open for members. Caption and Photo: www.cnn.com

Local bars and diners in Miami-Dade and Broward County threw open its doors to residents and tourists itching to get back to normal on Monday, May 18. Gyms and restaurants followed suit, along with hair and nail salons. The reopening of these public spaces is part of Governor Ron DeSantis’ plan to reopen Florida in a phased, safe way.

Floridians were eager to finally work out, eat out and go to the mall Monday as phase one of Florida’s reopening plan went into full effect. Restaurants, malls, libraries and gyms were able to open at 50% capacity. Barber Shops were also able to reopen as long as they abided by safety protocols like wearing face masks and social distancing.

It’s the first time many of these establishments are reopening since Gov. Ron DeSantis implemented the state’s stay-at-home orders in March.

The cities of Miami and Miami Beach remain closed to tourists, however, and many tourist attractions are still closed, such as Ocean Drive, which remains sealed off to car, truck and pedestrian traffic. At Sawgrass Mills, the largest mall in Broward County, cars were in the parking lot and people were waiting outside for the doors to open at 11 a.m., according to ABC affiliate WPLG-TV. Social distancing guidelines were in effect, with markings on the floor to direct foot traffic, WPLG in Miami reported, and shoppers were being offered masks at the entrances.

Photo: Governor Ron DeSantis Twitter

The number of total daily new cases and hospitalizations in Florida peaked in April. Deaths peaked in early May, according to state data. The number of new cases has since plateaued as testing has ramped up.

Non-essential businesses can resume operations with proper social distancing requirements under the Full Phase 1 reopening. The establishments must adhere to strict cleanliness rules and limited capacity, spacing chairs and tables at least 6 feet apart. Restaurants, currently limited to 25 percent capacity statewide, may now increase their capacity for dine-in guests to 50 percent. The South Florida counties of Miami-Dade and Broward are an exception to this rule.

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said he was the first in the state to start closing beaches, on March 16; impose a shelter-in-place order, on March 23; and require the use of masks publicly, on April 3. Miami, Hialeah and Miami Gardens are going slower than the county, which is opening slower than the state. Fort Lauderdale’s famed beach, synonymous with spring break since the 1960s movie “Where the Boys Are,” also remains closed for now.

Sidewalk dining in Orlando, Florida, USA on Monday, May 18, 2020. Caption and Photo: John Raoux/AP Photo/www.politico.com

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said the caseloads overall “have been plateauing” and said assisted living facility and nursing home admittances to hospitals do not represent most of the cases in the County. Franklin County Sheriff A.J. Smith was warning visitors against parking illegally as beaches were open for the first weekend of the year and residents said there was an enormous influx of visitors. In Naples, residents voted to reopen its beaches last week after re-closing them after a brief opening period because the crowds were too large. In Southeast Florida, locals have similarly started to protest beach closures.

Florida is the third most populous state; it ranks 10th in the number of total Covid-19 deaths.