Phase 3 adjusts status quo for Florida businesses, patrons

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Monday begins the first full week of Phase 3 of Florida’s reopening, meaning bars, restaurants, gyms and other places can operate at full capacity.

While local governments still have power over how businesses proceed, they need to justify it. Any local government that wishes to put restrictions in place has to provide a reason why. Otherwise, everything is permitted to operate at full capacity.

The beginning of a new phase doesn’t mean mask requirements in businesses will be lifted, nor does it mean individuals shouldn’t still take the necessary precautions to protect themselves.

All establishments opening to full capacity only need to have limited social distancing protocols as well as adequate sanitation practices in place. Screening employees for COVID-19 is still suggested.

Fort Myers Beach Mayor Ray Murphy still wants community members in town to follow CDC guidelines during the pandemic, as the state moves into Phase 3. That means use of masks and continuing to social distance.

Murphy also said he did not receive any heads up about the governor and the state’s decision to go into Phase 3 prior to official announcement. No, he and town council must decide whether the Fort Myers Beach mask ordinance is obsolete.

“There was nothing specific in the governor’s order pertaining to masks,” Murphy said. “I’m here to tell you today that, don’t be confused, it’s still in effect until the town council says otherwise.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order is specific when it comes to rules for restaurants and bars reopening at full capacity. As for the rest of the order, Murphy believes the governor moved too quickly, and that’s already causing confusion for people who live in his town and for those who visit.

“The pandemic has not gone away” Murphy said. “I don’t care if a piece of paper says something. It hasn’t gone away. It’s still with us.”

Deanna Imhoff, the general manager of Mango Ritas on Fort Myers Beach, told us safety of her staff and customers remains her top priority.

“You know, you have customers who have their own beliefs, and we want everyone to feel comfortable when they come into the restaurant,” Imhoff said. “If they prefer us to wear our masks, if they prefer us to wipe everything down, we want to make sure they’re comfortable.”

There are many other questions about Phase 3 left unaddressed in the governor’s executive order. For example, Gov. Ron DeSantis wants people to be able to watch sporting events in person, but it’s not clear what level of play that encompasses. It also doesn’t cover visitation for hospitals and nursing homes.

We have reached out to the Governor’s office repeatedly since last Friday, but no one has returned our calls and emails.

Publicly, DeSantis did say, however, that large sporting events with crowds should still consider reducing capacity.

MORE: Executive Order: Phase 3; Right to Work; Business Certainty; Suspension of Fines

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