On Monday, May 4, amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Florida began the process of reopening businesses throughout the state. This ruling included all counties except Broward, Miami Dade and Palm Beach due to their high amount of cases.
Instead of opening everything up at once, Florida and many other states have been opening in phases. Phase one of the reopening process came with many restrictions and regulations that had to be followed. These rules were deemed extremely vital in order to allow Florida to move onto phases two and three.
“With businesses reopening in Florida, I feel confident, but also a little nervous about the future of the virus,” Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School sophomore Hayli Siegel said. “The confidence comes from the fact that people feel ready and secure enough to go out and be semi-normal. On the other hand, the cautious side of me is anxious about seeing a second wave of extremely high numbers of cases and deaths.”
In phase one of the reopening process, restaurants could offer outdoor seating with six-feet of space between tables, when before, they were only allowed to offer take-out. Diners are allowed to sit inside, but the venue must be at 25% capacity to ensure they are not overcrowded. Retail stores are also being allowed to operate with 25% capacity throughout their store. There have been no changes for personal services, bars and gyms.
As of Monday, May 18, full phase one has taken place in Florida, including in Broward, Miami Dade and Palm Beach counties. The capacity rate for businesses has increased from 25% to 50% and salons may operate under the safety protocols, such as both clients and workers must be wearing masks, which took effect on Monday, May 11. Additionally, amusement parks such as Universal Orlando Resort are set to reopen on June 5, and gyms were allowed to open on Tuesday, May 26.
Phase two and three will begin based on how phase one goes and there is no set date for when Florida will move through the phases. State officials are continuing to monitor health care resources in order to stay informed throughout the process and see if cases of COVID-19 are starting to rise or fall. Those at higher risk, such as people with pre-existing conditions or the elderly, are still being advised to stay home and continue following social distancing measures.
“I have immunocompromised people at home, so I haven’t left the house except for groceries since March 19,” junior Natanya Resnikoff said. “Seeing people our age hang out every day and then complain about social distancing makes me think the majority of people don’t fully understand the risk. Small businesses need to open to survive.”
Even with businesses beginning to open up, citizens are still required to follow the social distancing rules throughout the state in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. Each of Florida’s counties may have adjusted rules due to their environment, but nothing is fully back to “normal.”