From the Capitol

These past weeks continue to challenge us all as we live, work and play in COVID-19 world. Governor Ron DeSantis announced Florida’s move to phase two for re-opening the state, with the exception of Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade Counties, on June 5th.

Businesses, government agencies and other organizations are developing guidelines for returning to offices to ensure safe environments for employees, customers and visitors.

Florida’s tourism industry proposed new operating procedures, which were approved locally and by the state,  for restaurants, hotels and theme parks. Beaches around the state, including in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties, are open just in time for the summer season. Universities, colleges and school districts are drafting plans to start classes in the fall that include virtual learning, lower classroom capacities, staggered schedules and social distancing measures.

Testing sites have increased across the state, with Publix and Home Depot offering COVID-19 testing in the parking lot at some of their locations. The Federal Emergency Management Administration awarded $252 million to Florida for these, and other, COVID-19 operations.

On a somber note, President Donald Trump ordered all U.S. flags on federal buildings and national monuments to fly at half-staff for three days, starting on Memorial Day, to honor the victims of the novel coronavirus disease. To date, Florida reports 100,217 cases and 3,173 deaths from COVID-19. The Florida Department of Health has a dashboard with up-to-date statistics.

Some highlights of the “new normal”: 

  • Theme parks are beginning to open and most will require temperature screenings and require, or highly suggest, all guests wear face masks. LEGOLAND opened on June 1st at 50 percent capacity and will refuse admission to anyone with a temperature above 100.4 degrees as well as anyone accompanying that guest. Universal Orlando opened on June 5th;  SeaWorld opened on June 11th and plans to cap its visitors and operate just five days a week; Disney is set to open the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom on July 11th and will re-open Epcot and Hollywood Studios on July 15th. Face coverings and temperature checks will be required and at least for now, there will be no park-hopping. Disney World workers are asking theme park executives to reconsider plans to reopen in July, following days of record-number cases of COVID-19 infections.
  • The Cruise Lines International Association announced on June 19th that cruise lines have agreed to suspend sailing from all U.S. ports until September 15th. The association includes most major cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Norwegian, Princess, Celebrity, MSC and Disney Cruise Line. Disney Cruise Line had previously announced cancellations through the end of July.
  • Beginning June 3rd, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles re-opened offices to serve the public by appointment only. Keep that in mind if you have a new driver or are renewing your driver’s license!
  • Sports are returning with the National Basketball Association and MLS soccer games being played at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, sans fans.

While the governor has said he will not impose a state-wide mask requirement, the list is ever growing of the cities and counties around the state that are beginning to mandate mask use. Visitors and residents in the Keys will be required to wear face masks at all business establishments through June 2021. Mayor Jerry Demings is requiring masks in all of Orange County. The City of St. Petersburg is directing all businesses to require their employees to wear masks and Tampa Mayor Jane Castor is requiring mask use indoors for employees and guests. A listing of face mask requirements around the state may be read here.