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September 28, 2020 -- Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis lifted coronavirus restrictions for restaurants and other businesses on Friday.

“Every business has the right to operate,” he said during a news briefing in St. Petersburg, where he also announced the state would enter Phase 3 of reopening.

Under the state plan, Phase 3 requires restaurants to implement some sanitation precautions, including regular cleaning between customers and single-use or laminated menus, according to Spectrum News 13.

In addition, DeSantis suspended all penalties or fines for refusing to wear face masks to prevent the spread of the virus, including outstanding fines that have already been issued.

“I think we need to get away from trying to penalize people for social distancing,” he said. “All these fines we’re going to hold in abeyance and hope that we can move forward in a way that’s more collaborative.”

Moving to Phase 3 lifts many of the previous restrictions. Businesses that have used remote work protocols can return to unrestricted staffing at their offices. Employees can resume non-essential travel. Theme parks can return to normal operations, and gyms can operate at full capacity. Bars and clubs can operate at full capacity but with “limited social distancing protocols.”

After DeSantis signed the executive order, restaurants and other businesses were able to reopen immediately on Friday afternoon, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. County officials can limit capacity somewhat — but not by more than 50%. If local governments try to restrict reopenings further, they’re required to seek state approval, he said.

“We’re not closing anything going forward,” DeSantis said.

On Friday, the Florida Department of Health reported 2,850 new coronavirus cases and 160 new deaths, totaling more than 695,000 cases and more than 13,900 deaths during the pandemic.

Show Sources

Florida Department of Health, “Florida Department of Health Issues Daily Updated on COVID-19, September 25, 2020.”

Spectrum News, “Florida Lifts COVID-19 Restaurant Rules, Halts Mask Penalties.”

WFTS Tampa Bay, “Gov. DeSantis holds press conference in St. Petersburg.”

State of Florida Office of the Governor, “Executive Order 20-244: Phase 3, Right to Work, Business Certainty, Suspension of Fines.”

Sarasota Herald-Tribune, “DeSantis Oks state moving into Phase 3 of reopening, lifting most limits.”

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