New Beach & Restaurant Rules
March 17, 2020, 1:00pm. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced Tuesday morning in a press conference that all Florida bars and nightclubs are to close for 30 days beginning at 5pm Tuesday, March 17, 2020. This action is in response to national guidance on efforts to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus and prevent overwhelming the capacity of medical facilities and equipment.
Restaurants in the state can remain open but must follow guidelines that include health screening for employees, a 50% capacity limit and staggered seating that results in a minimum of six feet separation between tables. DeSantis encouraged the use of takeout & delivery food service.
“This is the floor for Florida for the foreseeable future,” he said. “We support the efforts that the locals are doing. I think this is a virus that’s effecting the whole state, but it effects different communities differently…This makes the most sense. It gives the flexibility to local communities to go further if they want to.”
“You’ve seen a lot of things about people congregating at some places. We view this as something that could be problematic for spreading the virus. Stealth carriers, those who don’t have symptoms, but then who are nevertheless passing the virus on, or who have mild symptoms, is something that really, nobody has a handle on that. If they’re not meeting in those big groups than there’s less chance of that being passed on. We’ve also seen issues with Spring Break with some of the beaches.”
New Beach Rules
DeSantis then announced statewide rules for beaches. “For the statewide floor for beaches, (we’ll be) applying the CDC guidance of no group on a beach of more than ten people and you have to have distance apart. Different localities are going to make different decisions about what makes sense for them. It’s certainly not uniform throughout the state that you’re seeing massive crowds on the beaches. Some of them are residents and families and small groups properly spaced. We want them to have the freedom to continue to be able to do that, but also have the freedom to do more if they see fit.”
The Town of Fort Myers Beach has not yet indicated if they intend to expand on the state-wide limits on beaches and restaurants. On Monday, March 16, they pulled the permits for all outdoor special recreation uses including jet ski, parasailing and chair/umbrella rentals. Last Friday, March 13, Town Council authorized the Town Manager Roger Hernstadt to pull the permits of any special events planned through April 13 that would draw a crowd of over 250 people. They delegated the manager to act, expecting that the guidance would change over time and it has. In the four days since Friday’s council meeting, the national and state guidance has gone from avoiding situations with 250 people to 10 people.
For updated Fort Myers Beach information, see fortmyersbeach.news and follow the Island Sand Paper on Facebook.